Academic publisher Elsevier says that its journal editors reject between 30 and 50% of the articles submitted to Elsevier journals before they even reach the peer-review stage, and one of the top reasons for rejection is poor language. Journal editors make decisions at their desk before the paper even gets to reviewers.
Elsevier says journal editors don’t like:
- sloppy copy
- unclear messages
- inconsistency and inaccuracy
- unclear impact or novelty.
No surprises there!
Tips to avoid the reject pile
- Take care as you write and type and ask someone else to read your paper.
- Use short sentences and simple language to focus on your message.
- Check once, check twice and check again.
- Check your manuscript is within the scope of the journal.
- Be clear about the findings, what’s new and the impact on the research field. But don’t overstate the impact.
See the article and more in the latest Authors’ Update from Elsevier at Authors’ Update.
A recent Society of Editors (NSW) meeting on 5 May highlighted the challenges in achieving consistency in multi-part documents written by many authors.
The use of house style guides and style sheets makes it easier to achieve consistency in style issues such as spelling, hyphenation, capitalisation, dates and numbers. A house style guide sets out the preferred style choices for an organisation’s publications. A style sheet is similar but is developed for a specific publication, with specific terms used in that publication often listed in alphabetical order for easy reference.
Tips for achieving consistency with multiple authors
- Check if there is an existing house or organisation style guide.
- Develop a simple style guide for common decisions.
- Let all authors know about the style resources and how to use them.
- Review and update the style resources regularly.
Editors also use style guides and sheets to ensure consistency in their editing decisions on multi-author works and to reduce the use of personal preference.
Useful starting points are the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers (6th edition, 2002), discussed in a February 2014 post, and the Macquarie Dictionary for accepted Australian spelling, hyphenation and capitalisation.
But even the most comprehensive style guide won’t have the answer to every editing question. Editing choices should always reflect the purpose and audience of each document.