Why they rejected your manuscript – and what you can do about it

2 min read
First Published: 
Aug 2008

Key Learnings contained in this article:

Journal editors reject submitted manuscripts because they are:

  • Inappropriate for their audience
  • Poorly designed studies
  • Poorly written
  • Seen to have been submitted elsewhere
  • Suspected of conflict of interest

When your manuscript is rejected, there are ways to handle the issue… principally by not taking rejection personally. There may be factors well beyond your control. For instance, the British publication, New Statesman , ran a competition whose first prize would go to the entrant who could produce a piece of writing that most closely resembled the style of acclaimed author, Graham Greene. Greene entered the competition – and came second!

A second way of handling rejection is by not attacking the editor. Editors are kindly and sensitive folk (I know it) and are just doing their job. Be ready to accept their constructive feedback. This you can do in a civilized way by addressing each suggestion for revision, by following instructions… and by being scrupulously objective.

As Dr. Edward Huth puts it in his excellent ‘How to write and publish papers in the medical sciences:’ Rejection may be fully justified from the editor’s point of view. Keep in mind how authors are competing for limited space in journals.”

But Huth, a former editor of Annals of Internal Medicine does offer a Plan B of sorts for the rejectee: Send the manuscript somewhere else. “The paper may be readily accepted by a journal of lesser reputation,” he suggests. “But before you send the paper to a new journal,” he advises, “do what you can to improve the odds that it will be accepted.” That means giving careful consideration to the reasons why the first journal gave you the thumbs down.

Don’t let rejection get you down. There are scores of examples of ultimately hugely successful works that were turned down multiple times. And remember the five Ps of effective writing: Passion, Patience, Perseverance, Pachydermia, and Parsimony. More on these in future issues of HOC .

This is one topic in David Woods’s talk ‘Getting Published’ which includes segments on overcoming writer’s block; a handy checklist for writers of nonfiction; the classical article format; how to produce editorials, reviews, and abstracts; plagiarism, conflicts of interest; copyright – and those five Ps of effective writing.

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