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Why thank the editor?

Craving publication, we may view journal editors as the enemy, obstructing our fame, fortune, and at least one publication. And when the acceptance finally arrives (and with relentless perseverance, it will), we rejoice, send out email blasts to everyone we know, and reply to world-renowned conference directors with gracious replies. Before all this, though, we should do one thing that’s both considerate and diplomatic: thank the editor.

This action makes sense for several sound reasons:

  1. It’s polite. Okay, admittedly weak. Keep reading.
  2. It’s thoughtful. We writers are prone to self-pity and narcissism: we’re unappreciated geniuses, the publishing world is against us, the hacks get the breaks, etc., etc. By thanking the editor, you’re going beyond your self-absorbed world and extending yourself outward to one of the people in your writing world who matter most.
  3. Thanking the editor says you realize editors are people too. They toil (in academia often without monetary compensation) so we can have a vehicle for our writing, boast to our fancy-attorney big sister, and chalk up another notch on our vitas. Don’t editors deserve a little recognition and appreciation?
  4. Thanking the editor acknowledges the partnership. We tend to have a love-hate relationship with editors. Sometimes we feel we’d do anything to get them to publish us, even to cutting the guts out of our most labored-over annotated creation. Sometimes we’re sure they’ll never publish anyone, especially an unknown who appears in their inbox without referral by a Big Scholar. Sometimes we think editors exist only to enlist legions of reviewers who turn out 3.5-point single-spaced tables of why they rejected our manuscript.
  5. Thanking the editor is politically savvy. The editor will remember your thoughtfulness and likely regard your next submission with kinder, gentler eyes. At least you may get to the top of the pile faster. When you submit again after you’re published, which should be very soon after, you can mention your letter of gratitude. With the thank you, some writers immediately attach the next manuscript.
  6. You can always find something to thank the editor for. I do not mean how well your published piece reads. Praise of your own words should come from the droves of other academics who write their own thank you notes to the editor for publishing your remarkably insightful piece. You can find many things to extol:  the headings, the other articles in the issue, the judicious editing of your 500-word bio, or, if you’re really scraping, the font style.
  7. Thanking the editor feels good. This relates to number 2 above. Thoughtful acts feel good. Getting out of yourself feels good. And the universal law applies: when we give, in this case a thank you note, we receive in return. We receive not only a good feeling but a greater sense of equality and possibly a more favorable reading of our next article.
  8. When you thank the editor, you’re thanking yourself. For your growth as a writer, this last is the most profound. Your note is really a letter to yourself. It says, “I am a professional. I am a writer. I have a file of letters to editors who have published my work. I’m part of the grand community of academic writers and editors.” Now how do you feel?

These reasons show you that thanking the editor is more than a pandering gesture or another endless administrative task that keeps you from your writing. Rather, it’s a lesson in self-worth, expansiveness, and professional empowerment. At the least, it’s an opportunity to produce a sincere little gem.

If you’re not published yet? Write the letter anyway. You don’t have to send it. Label a file with the names of each publication and editor, call it “Correspondence,” and put your letter in it. When you write it, you’ll be “acting as if,” visualizing in advance the outcome you desire. After your consistent application of butt to chair and fingers to keyboard, this is one of the most direct and meaningful things you can do toward reaching your dream of publishing.

And when, on that miraculous day, you open the issue and see your name and piece staring back at you, you’ll be ready. Your letter of thanks will speed from your typing fingers to the editor’s desk, eyes, and heart.

© 2021 Noelle Sterne

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Noelle SterneDissertation coach, nurturer, bolsterer, handholder, and editor; scholarly and mainstream writing consultant; author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles; and spiritual and motivational counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 600 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, GradShare, InnerSelf, Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. See the PowerPoint teaser here. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings. Following one of her own, she is currently working on her third novel. Visit Noelle at