This is a very brief blog to highlight three things reviewers generally don’t really like.
Before I get there, let me recap briefly what generally determines the quality of a paper:
However, quite often we forget or underestimate that writing a good paper is more of an art than a science. This means that both the content and the packaging of the paper have an important role in determining its quality and appeal. By packaging, I refer to the writing style and editing of the paper.
Before submitting (and assuming you have taken care of the 4 key elements above that determine the quality of the content), make sure that you spend some time reading your paper with the following in mind.
Writing needs practice, like any other skill it needs to be developed with patience and perseverance. And this is even more true if you are non-native English speaker, like me. One useful exercise is to read papers with the specific aim of analysing the writing style, the structure and layout and the linguistic tools that are being used. Although I have made some progress and most of my sentences seem to be actually written in English rather than being translated from Italian to English, I still always make sure I get my papers professionally edited and proof-read (by friends, colleagues or – when possible – co-authors who are English native speakers). For more writing tips, you can refer to the presentation posted by Mark Clatworthy in our Repository.
… and don’t forget: before reviewers come editors. Editors are picky (and rightly so!) about the “presentation” of a paper, and if the paper/writing is not correct, that’s enough to give them a reason to reject the paper without sending it out to reviewers. Editors do like when your paper fits in with the debate the journal has been publishing, the writing style is aligned with that of the Journal, and when your cover letter is useful (see here the contribution by EAR editor, Prof Hervé Stolowy, on the importance of the cover letter, published in the EAA newsletter).
All in all, a poorly written paper will not get the credit it may deserve, but there is nobody else to blame than ourselves!! Editing, polishing, polishing (and polishing some more!) help avoiding that reviewers feel stupid or get lost, and this is generally a good start.