TRUTH #10: WRITING SKILLS ACTUALLY MATTER
The fact is, no matter how good the content of an article may be, if it isn’t reasonably well written, it will never see print. There are many reasons that this is so, but the take-home message for all authors is that clarity of thought, good basic writing techniques, and attention to detail in format, spelling, and grammar do make a difference. And as I jokingly stated to the audience of mostly women at that conference forum, “Rewriting does not make you ugly.”
TRUTH #9: ALL MANUSCRIPTS ARE NOT CREATED EQUALLY
Editors receive an amazing number of manuscripts which simply do not fit within the focus of their journal. There is a journal for almost every well-conceived and well-written article, but not every such article may be accepted by a given journal. Matching an article to the mission of a specific journal will not guarantee publication; however, it will assure that your article is given a fair look. Read the mission statement of the target journal. Look at several issues of the journal to get a feel for its style. Use queries to the editor if you are unsure of fit.
TRUTH #8: AUTHOR GUIDELINES ARE MEANT TO BE FOLLOWED
Every journal has a set of author guidelines that are intended to assist writers in meeting the expectations and requirements of the journal’s editors and publisher. Acquire and read these guidelines from the journal’s Website before writing the first word of a manuscript. Target your manuscript to an article type if the journal’s guidelines delineate any. Follow structure and format specifications to the letter. Heed stated limitations on numbers of words, tables, figures, and references that may appear. It is far easier to begin an article knowing the guidelines than to fit an article to them after it is already written. And the fit must be made in a revision anyway.
TRUTH #7: THE AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION MANUAL (OR WRITER’S MANUAL APPROPRIATE TO THE JOURNAL) IS A HELPFUL TOOL
Too often, authors refer to such manuals only to obtain format information for citations and references. In fact, these manuals contain far more information necessary to creating a manuscript in the format expected by reviewers and editorial staff of the journal. The manuals spell out in great detail stylistic conventions used by the journal in all matters of writing, including section headers and levels, acceptable abbreviations, format for statistical notations, and the like. They set the format for sections of the article, tables, figures, legends, and other elements of a complete manuscript. Please obtain and consult the one that is appropriate to your target journal.
TRUTH #6: REVIEWERS KNOW THEIR STUFF, USUALLY
Reviewers are the unsung heroes of the publishing world. They voluntarily devote countless hours to safeguard the standards of science and knowledge generation in our field. Editors do their best to select reviewers who have the appropriate expertise to provide an informed and fair review. Nonetheless, as a human endeavor, peer review is an imperfect process. When responding to a review, all reviewer suggestions do not have to be followed, but they must all be addressed. Support your decisions when refuting a reviewer comment. Alert the editor to all changes made in the manuscript, indicating where they can be found. Finally, Sinners NB: Reviewing is a way to get to heaven.
TRUTH #5: NUMBERS MUST BE ACCURATE AND ACCURATELY INTERPRETED
A large proportion of actual errors in submitted manuscripts occur in the inappropriate use of statistics, interpretation of statistical results, mistakes in statistical copy (including tabled data and table formatting), and lack of correspondence between text and tables. Such errors reveal a lack of attention to detail by the author and raise questions in the minds of reviewers and editors about the level of rigor used in the actual conduct of a study. Authors can do a lot to convey confidence in their work by submitting a manuscript free of errors where the numbers are concerned.
TRUTH #4: A DEADLINE IS MORE THAN A SUGGESTION
Although authors’ concerns with the rapidity of getting an editorial decision on their manuscript are well understood, few attend to editors’ concerns with receiving revisions and corrections on time from authors. The publication world runs on deadlines and a failure to meet them can wreak havoc on a production schedule. Such schedules are beyond the control of editors who work diligently to meet the deadlines of their publisher. Of course, we realize that life happens and usually have contingency plans when an author cannot deliver on time. However, it is good practice to keep an editor informed if you need more time, particularly if you plan to submit manuscripts to the journal again in the future.
TRUTH #3: EDITORS HAVE THE LAST WORD
Editors shape knowledge by controlling the gateway and occasionally influence through editorials. Although reviewers make recommendations, editors make decisions. Although it is not common, editors can reject manuscripts that reviewers recommend for publication and accept ones that some may not recommend. Why? Because editors must keep in mind the big picture of disciplinary knowledge as well as the interests of the journal and its mission. Sometimes such decisions are delicate in nature and may involve risk taking, free speech, or ethical or other considerations. If an author has concerns about a decision on a manuscript, do not hesitate to contact the editor to discuss it. One may not get the answer that is sought but will get an explanation of the decision.
TRUTH #2: EDITORS ARE HUMAN
We require sleep. We may live in a time zone some distance from an author. We (sometimes) get backlogged or take a vacation. We make errors, although rarely I hope. Although most editors are interested in working constructively with authors and may cultivate them by providing guidance that strengthens their work, our primary responsibility is not to authors but rests with publishers and consumers of knowledge.
TRUTH #1: PUBLISHING IS REWARDING
No one forgets the pride and joy of seeing in print the first—and every—journal article that they write. The process is akin to giving birth, and sometimes as painful, but always rewarding. A peer-reviewed publication is an indication that one is a thought leader in the field, and that their work has met the quality standards of the discipline.
Editorial reprinted from Research and Theory for Nursing Practice: An International Journal, Vol. 26, No. 3, 2012. Visit Research and Theory for Nursing Practice on IngentaConnect to view tables of contents or to subscribe and find the issue's TOC.