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How to read a journal acceptance letter

Former journal editor Gerald Stone said an article isn’t dead until you as an author decides to bury it. Some authors, he said, don’t know that the letter they receive is an acceptance letter — the editor only wants the author to make revisions and resubmit. Instead, strangely, they take it as rejection.

For this reason, Stone said, when you get a letter from a journal that will tell you whether your article has been accepted or not, follow this procedure:

  • Don’t tear it open right away. Take it back to your office and shut the door.
  • Open it up. If it says “Congratulations, your article has been accepted,” read on. If not, put it back in the envelope and wait a day or two before reading it.
  • When you go back to it, read each paragraph until you can do it without saying “these idiots.”
  • Read the marked-up manuscript and make revisions and correct it calmly.
  • Get your revisions in the mail within a month.

“People who can do this will be successful,” Stone said.

Journal editor Gay Wakefield offered this advice: “Anything you can do to make the job easier will make it easier to get published.”

Stone gives four tips for getting published:

  • Spell-check the final draft.
  • Develop a narrow specialty area and become an expert in a narrow focus.
  • Make sure your article’s purpose is clearly stated on the first page of the article.

Stone’s tongue-in-cheek rule for a good scholarly article: “If you read it once and understand it, it’s not scholarly. If you read it three times and understand it, it might be scholarly.”