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How to Write a Job Application Cover Letter
Writing a cover letter is essential when applying for jobs. This is the perfect way to express how your specific skills are relevant to the open position. Wow your future employer with this simple cover letter example format.
Write a First Draft
Writing a first draft makes your letter concise and professional, states The Balance Careers. Organize your thoughts by making a list of what you’re trying to convey. Make sure you prioritize certain aspects like your previous job experience and why you would be a good fit for the position. Clearly state what position you’re interested in and why. Think about why you’re applying and what caught your eye about this specific position. Your cover letter will be easier to write after your thoughts are collected and organized.
Customize Your Salutation
When writing a salutation, make sure you know who you are writing to. Is this person the owner of the company or a Human Resources administrator? If you’re not sure, research the company to find out. Addressing your cover letter to a specific person shows initiative and attention to detail. After your salutation, start your letter with a short introduction of yourself. This gives future employers insight into who you are and the purpose of your cover letter.
Your cover letter should be no more than one page, so keep your points brief. Clearly state what position you are interested in and why. Explain why you are a good fit for the company because of your past job experience. If you have no similar job experience, let the employer know why you are changing career paths. Expand on your skills and give specific examples of how that skill set helped you at your last position. Name projects you’ve worked on and show results.
Close Your Letter
End your cover letter with a brief sentence and sign off. Thank the employer for their time and express your interest towards the job again. Let them know you’ll follow up with them if you do not hear back within a week and leave your contact information. Sign off with a professional farewell and leave room for a signature if sending a hard copy.
Edit and Proofread
As you finish writing your cover letter, make sure you take time to edit and proofread your document. Make sure it’s structured in a professional format with the company’s information, the salutation and introduction, the body of the letter, a brief closing sentence and farewell. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes to ensure a formal result. Make sure all names are spelled correctly, as well.
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- Publication Process
Writing an Effective Cover Letter for Manuscript Resubmission
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Table of Contents
As a researcher who has invested time and effort perfecting a manuscript after years of research, you might be aware of how disappointing it is to receive a “revise and resubmit” notice from your target journal. The good news, however, is that there is still scope for your manuscript to be accepted subsequently—an outcome which is far more desirable than a complete rejection ! How can you improve the chances of your manuscript getting accepted upon resubmission? A well-written cover letter accompanying your manuscript can definitely help!
So, what is a cover letter?
A cover letter is a brief document that introduces your research, submitted along with the manuscript. Here are a few important points to note about it:
- It is usually written and submitted by the corresponding author.
- It is required by most peer-review journals.
- It should include the name of the editor and the journal, the importance of the manuscript, and other relevant details.
- It should include the date of and a brief statement to note the resubmission
What tips should you follow to write a cover letter for resubmission?
Here are some important tips you can follow to ensure that your cover letter is appreciated by the editors and prompts them to revisit your work:
The cover letter to the editor should be brief, formal, and polite. Even if the remarks on your manuscript are rude, do not get upset. Remember that they are not a criticism of you as an individual, but about your work. They are meant only to improve your work.
Provide accurate details
Include your manuscript details such as the title, the corresponding authors’ names, the manuscript number, and a brief statement to note the resubmission.
Draw attention to the changes made
Highlight all the changes you have made to the manuscript. This will form a positive impression on the editor and encourage him/her to consider that your resubmitted work is fit for publication. For example: “I have made every attempt to fully address these comments in the revised manuscript.”
Be positive in your approach
After mentioning the changes you have made to your work, acknowledge that your reviewer’s comments and feedback have helped you enrich your manuscript. For example: “I believe the additional analyses discussed above have helped to substantially improve my manuscript.”
Respond to specific comments
Make sure that you respond to every comment of the reviewers or the editor separately. In case you were unable to make the changes, explain or state the reasons underlying the same. For example: “This is a good point that has led to a rewrite of this section of the paper. As suggested, I agree that…”
Include a note of thanks to the editor for the opportunity to improve and resubmit your manuscript. For example: “I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude/thanks to the reviewers for the positive feedback and helpful comments that supported these revisions.”
Add a preview for the content
Do not forget to add an at-a-glance roadmap on how and where to check for revisions in the manuscript. It will make it easier for the editor or reviewers to go through the draft. For example: “Below, I have outlined how I have handled Reviewer 1’s comments. I have reiterated each suggestion in (bold/italics).”
In addition, ensure that you dedicate sufficient time to draft the cover letter. This way, it will not come across as a last-minute, hurried addition, but as an informative, comprehensive, and well-thought-out document. Despite these tips, should you still require help, Elsevier Author Services is here to help you. Our experts can guide you through the entire process and help you produce an excellent paper ready for publication!
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How to Write a Response Letter for Journal Resubmission
- A well-written rebuttal or response letter is a necessity when submitting a revised manuscript
- Use our checklist as a guide to craft an effective rebuttal letter, and
- Download our example rebuttal letter and use it as a template
The English language has a rich history of borrowing words from other languages, especially from Latin. Latin abbreviations such as ‘a.m.’, ‘p.m.’ and ‘CV’ have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Such abbreviations are also frequently used in academic writing, from the ‘Ph.D.’ in the affiliation section to the ‘i.e.’, ‘e.g.’, ‘et al.’, and ‘QED’ in the rest of the paper.
This guide explains when and how to correctly use ‘et al.’ in a research paper.
In this guide:
- 1) Meaning of ‘et al.’
- a) Table: Correct use of ‘et al.’ by style guide
- b) Unusual scenarios
If a journal editor sends you a decision letter asking you to revise and resubmit your manuscript according to peer reviewers’ comments, you’ll need to prepare a rebuttal letter, or response letter, to accompany your resubmission.
The rebuttal letter serves two purposes. First, it’s a cover letter announcing that your revised manuscript has been improved and is ready for reconsideration. Second, it explains how the manuscript has been revised, by way of point-by-point responses to each of the comments made by each of the peer reviewers.
Your letter should convince the editor to accept your manuscript for publication, possibly without another round of review, so it’s worth taking the time to write an effective and compelling letter. In this guide, we’ll show you how you can do so in six simple steps.
A. Writing a Rebuttal Letter for Your Revised Manuscript
Step 1: Address the recipient professionally Step 2: State the manuscript essentials (e.g., title & manuscript number) Step 3: Thank the editor and peer reviewers Step 4: Summarise how you addressed the reviewers’ comments Step 5: Provide your detailed point-by-point responses to the reviewers Step 6: Conclude and sign off professionally Putting it all together: A quick checklist
B. Example Rebuttal Letter [Free Download]
The journal may ask you to follow specific instructions when resubmitting your manuscript, such as using special formats or forms to make point-by-point responses to the reviewers, how to indicate edits in the manuscript, and how to upload your responses and revised file(s).
A. Writing a Response Letter for Your Revised Manuscript
Note: Steps 1 and 2 below are similar to the first two steps in our guide on writing a cover letter for journal submission .
Step 1: Address the recipient professionally
It’s important that you greet the right person as the letter’s recipient, and that you do so professionally. Refer to the journal’s decision letter asking you to revise your manuscript, and reply to the person who signed the correspondence . In most cases, it will be the journal’s ‘Editor-in-Chief’, ‘Chief Editor’, or ‘Editor’, or a representative such as the ‘Executive Editor’ or ‘Managing Editor’, or a ‘Handling Editor’, ‘Senior Editor’, ‘Associate Editor’, ‘Assistant Editor’, or ‘Academic Editor’.
However, use the greeting ‘Dear’ followed by the person’s prefix (courtesy) title and surname (family name) or full name if the surname is unclear, rather than the stated job name. If the prefix title is not given in the journal’s letter, you may need to check information that is listed in the journal’s website on a page titled ‘Editorial Board’, ‘Journal Staff’, or something similar.
✗ Dear Editor,
✗ Dear Andrew Smith:
✗ Dear Andrew
✓ Dear Dr. Smith,
✓ Dear Dr. Andrew Smith,
✓ Dear Ms Li
✓ Dear Prof Saito:
The use of punctuation in your greeting (e.g., Dr. Smith: vs Dr Smith), as well as in the rest of the letter, will vary depending on whether you’re following US, UK, or other convention. We recommend that you pick one style and follow it throughout the letter.
Contact details go before the greeting. The resubmission date can go before or after the recipient’s contact information.
Your institution’s name
City, Postcode/ZIP Code
Editor-in-Chief’s full name with prefix title
10 January 2022
Dear (editor’s surname with prefix title):
If the journal uses ‘open identity’ review, where the peer reviewers are named, you may be required to submit a personalised rebuttal letter to each reviewer. In this case, greet each reviewer by using the surname and prefix title stated in the journal’s letter, and use the following as the recipient’s contact information before the greeting:
Reviewer’s full name with prefix title
Reviewer (add a number if provided, e.g., Reviewer #1)
Dear (reviewer’s surname with prefix title):
Step 2: State the manuscript essentials (e.g., title & manuscript number)
In your first paragraph, explain why you’re writing the letter. Remember to include not only the original title of your manuscript but also the assigned manuscript tracking number . Explain if you’ve edited the title in your revised manuscript. Don’t forget to name the journal and to sound polite and professional.
Use formal English and consistent punctuation and spelling style (e.g., US, as in the first example below, or UK, as in the second and third examples) throughout the letter.
✓ I am writing to resubmit my paper, “Title of your manuscript,” Manuscript #1234, to Journal Name . Please note that the revised title is “Revised title of your manuscript.”
✓ On behalf of my co-authors, I am resubmitting the attached manuscript, originally titled ‘Title of your manuscript’ and now retitled ‘Revised title of your manuscript’ (Manuscript #1234), for reconsideration for publication in Journal Name .
✓ My co-authors and I were pleased to receive your response of 15 December 2021 inviting us to revise and resubmit our manuscript. Accordingly, we would like to submit the enclosed revised paper, ‘Title of your manuscript’, Manuscript #2345, for reconsideration for publication in Journal Name .
Omitting any of the key pieces of information (i.e., manuscript title, manuscript number, journal name) or sounding informal, desperate, or too pushy can result in a poor opening.
✗ Please reconsider my article for publication in your journal!
✗ I’d be deeply humbled if you’d accept our revised paper for publication in your highly esteemed journal .
If your rebuttal letter is an email, the subject line should say ‘Resubmission of’ followed by the manuscript tracking code and the original title. If it is a PDF that goes beyond a page, use the manuscript tracking code, original title, and author surname (with et al. if there are other authors) as a page header, and number the pages.
Step 3: Thank the editor and peer reviewers
The next paragraph shows that you appreciate the effort of the editor and reviewers in trying to improve your paper. It also shows that you respect the value of the peer review process as the main quality control system of the journal and of scholarly publication in general.
Even if you may have disagreed with some of the reviewers’ comments, thank the editor and reviewers . Be concise and sound sincere and appreciative, without sounding too emotional or gushy:
✓ [Writing to an editor] I/We thank you and the reviewers for your time and effort in reviewing my/our manuscript. The feedback has been invaluable in improving the content and presentation of the paper.
✓ [Writing to a reviewer] I/We would like to thank you for providing your constructive and detailed review comments on my/our manuscript. The recommendations and advice have helped me/us to significantly enhance the quality of the manuscript.
✗ We are deeply grateful and forever humbly indebted to you from the bottom of our hearts for furnishing us with such insightful and truly wise feedback on our paper. Without such selfless, magnanimous, in-depth review comments, we wouldn’t have possibly been able to subsequently revise our manuscript to perfection.
If the editor asked for a specific major issue to be addressed, whether it was a request highlighting a reviewer’s comment or an additional request, make sure this is specifically mentioned here.
✓ In particular, in accordance with your request, the word count and number of references have been reduced and the manuscript has been reformatted as a Brief Communication.
✓ We would like to point out that, as you and both reviewers requested, we have had the whole manuscript professionally edited (please see the enclosed editing certificate) and have replaced the figures with high-resolution ones.
Step 4: Summarise how you addressed the reviewers’ comments
Next, say how you used the peer reviewers’ comments to revise your manuscript, and if you followed every recommendation. Refer to how you will present your replies to the reviewers in your point-by-point responses and in the revised manuscript.
- Responses to the reviewers within the rebuttal letter or in a separate document, with your responses clearly indicated (e.g., in italics or a different text colour)
- Revised manuscript showing tracked editing changes, or highlighted or coloured text that has been edited
- ‘Clean’ version of revised manuscript (without tracked changes)
✓ [Writing to an editor] I/We have revised my/our manuscript according to most (or: the majority /nearly all / all) of the reviewers’ comments. The changes are highlighted in yellow in the attached manuscript, and my/our point-by-point responses are given in italics below (or: are given in italics in the attached file named ‘P-B-P Response – MS1234’). A clean file of the manuscript is also attached.
✓ [Writing to a reviewer] I/We have revised my/our manuscript according to all of your comments, as explained after the word ‘ Response :’ in the point-by-point responses below. Edited text in the attached revised manuscript is visible as tracked changes under the All Markup mode of Microsoft Word.
State if you made any other changes that were not requested by the editor or reviewers . You can simply say that the text has been corrected after proofreading , as indicated in the tracked version. However, any major revisions that were not requested by the editor or reviewers need to be fully explained and highlighted, because they may require a new round of peer review.
✓ The tracked/highlighted manuscript also shows minor corrections and renumbered references and figures after proofreading. In addition, please note that Figures 2 to 5 have been replaced with higher-magnification photographs showing the features of interest in greater detail.
Refer to the reviewers as ‘you/your’ only if you are addressing each reviewer directly in separate rebuttal letters. If your letter is addressed to the journal editor, refer to the reviewers in the third person as ‘the reviewer’ or ‘the reviewers’ and as the pronouns ‘they/them/their’, regardless of whether you mean one or more of the reviewers.
Step 5: Provide your detailed point-by-point responses to the reviewers
You need to give details on how and where you addressed each comment, or why you chose not to address a certain comment. If including your responses within the rebuttal letter to the editor, prepare replies to each reviewer in turn (labelled ‘Responses to Reviewer 1’, ‘Responses to Reviewer 2’, etc). If you are required to address separate rebuttal letters to each named reviewer, just call this section ‘Responses to Comments’.
For each reviewer, copy/paste each comment, unedited. Then reply to each one in turn , citing the corresponding change in the manuscript by referring to page, paragraph, and line number (or just line number, if you’re using continuous line numbering). Number the comments and make sure you reply to each point if a comment contains several points.
For the order of comments, use the structure adopted by each reviewer, such as:
- Major Comments followed by Minor Comments
- Comments ordered by arabic or roman numerals or line number
- Comments divided into Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References
For the format, follow the journal’s Instructions for Authors or any specific instructions given in the decision letter. The journal may ask you to format your response in the rebuttal letter as one list, or as a table with columns headed with ‘Reviewer’s comment’, ‘Author’s response’, and ‘Location in manuscript’. Or you may need to attach one document replying to the reviewers in sequence or a separate document per reviewer, again as a list or in a table.
You’ll need to reply to praise as well as criticism. If the comment was ‘ The authors have been thorough in explaining X and presenting Y’ , respond by writing ‘ Response: We thank the reviewer for their positive comment’. There is no need to thank the reviewer in every response . A direct reply to a simple request is acceptable. For example, if the reviewer complains that the legends are too brief, you could say: ‘ Response: We have revised all legends by giving specific test conditions and key statistical results’.
If a specific sentence or phrase is queried by the reviewer, consider including the revised sentence (or an example) in your reply to show you’ve incorporated the change. For example, ‘ Response: The phrasing “Based on X,…” has now been corrected throughout the text, e.g., page 12, paragraph 3, line 10: “On the basis of these results, we suggest that drafts be proofread to check for awkward phrasing.”’.
Remember to be formal, courteous, and respectful in your replies and explain with a reason and evidence if you disagree with any points. Refer to the reviewer as ‘you’ only if you’re asked to address the rebuttal letter to the reviewer. Don’t mention the other reviewer(s) or the editor in your replies, unless :
- you’re instructed to refer to other reviewer responses rather than to repeat responses,
- the editor noted that the reviewers contradicted each other and gave you permission to ignore a point, or
- you are deferring something to the editor
For example, if the reviewer comment was ‘ The analysis of X seems to be directly repeated on page 10, and an explanation is missing for why X analysis was used’ , possible replies to the editor are as follows:
✓ [If agreeing] Response: We thank the reviewer for pointing out these errors. The reviewer is correct and we apologise for these oversights. We have now deleted the repeated text in the first five sentences of paragraph 1 on page 10 and justified the use of X analysis in paragraph 2 on page 5.
✗ [If agreeing] Response: Thanks for your wonderful astute observation; the other reviewer said exactly the same thing as you! See our response to Reviewer 2.
✓ [If disagreeing] Response: Although the analysis on page 10 may seem repeated, it is performed on the parsimonious model as opposed to the initial full model. We have now clarified the difference in paragraph 1 on page 10. However, the use of X analysis per se had already been briefly explained in paragraph 2 on page 5 with a citation (Ref 10) and is a standard approach in this study type. The revised paper has reached the article word limit, but we can elaborate on why we selected the method in preference to other methods if the editor allows 150 more words for this proposed additional text:…
✗ [If disagreeing] Response: You clearly didn’t read the text properly: page 10 is about a different subanalysis so it’s NOT repeated! The other reviewer didn’t have a problem and must’ve been a more careful reviewer than you. What’s more, the method is obviously referred to in reference 10 and, anyway, we’ve run out of space to say any more!
If the editor also included a list of requested changes, treat this like another set of reviewer comments that needs full responses, and reply to these first, under the title ‘Responses to the Editor’.
Step 6: Conclude and sign off professionally
End your response letter by professionally thanking the editor for re-reviewing your submission, without being too flattering or sounding insincere. You can also confirm that all authors agree with the changes made to the manuscript.
✓ All authors have read and approved the revised manuscript. We hope that our resubmission is now suitable for inclusion in Journal Name and we look forward to hearing from you.
✗ My co-authors and I are extremely indebted to you for graciously reconsidering this humble manuscript for immediate publication in your highly respected and prestigious journal. Please reply at your earliest convenience! Thanks!!!
Your sign-off should provide full contact details (e.g., mailing address, fax number, telephone number, and email address). For example,
[First and Last Name of Corresponding Author]
Department of _________
University of ________
Putting it all together: A quick checklist
If you’ve followed our guidelines above, you should have an effective rebuttal letter. Good luck with your resubmission! Reach out to [email protected] should you require any editorial assistance.
Our downloadable draft manuscript resubmission response letter, written in US style, presents a fictitious case but is customisable and is annotated with helpful comments. Edit or replace text as needed and delete all comments when finalising your letter. Remember to use non-technical, jargon-free but formal language, and avoid abbreviations, or spell them out at first mention.
Our latest online workshop built on the success of face-to-face workshops we developed specifically for local universities. Over 30 faculty members joined the session, presented by our Chief Operating Officer, Mr Nick Case, to learn from our case studies on editing research proposals.
The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out.
Wondering why some abbreviations such as ‘et al.’ and ‘e.g.’ use periods, whereas others such as CV and AD don’t? Periods are typically used if the abbreviations include lowercase or mixed-case letters. They’re usually not used with abbreviations containing only uppercase letters.
The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out. The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out. The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out.
Check out AsiaEdit’s professional research grant proposal editing service. Read more about our training services covering all aspects of academic writing tailored for local institutions.
More resources on research grant proposal writing: On-demand Webinars Preparing an effective research proposal – Your guide to successful funding application Preparing an effective research proposal – Your guide to successful funding application (Part 2)
Dr Trevor Lane is a publishing and education consultant and an elected Council Member of the Committee on Publication Ethics. He has 25 years of experience helping authors publish their research in peer-reviewed academic journals.
Edited by Felix Sebastian
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Sample Cover Letter for Journal Manuscript Resubmissions
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D. Cover Letter for Resubmission
When one submits the revised version of a manuscript, the cover letter is slightly different from the one for the initial submission. Authors will be expected to make clear how they responded to the suggestions of the editor and the reviewers. In many journals, the editor might explicitly mention a separate document to outline the revisions in detail. In such cases, the authors can start with a general statement of their changes in the cover letter, not forgetting to thank the reviewers for the time they spent on reading the manuscript. Then they can append the details of their changes in a separate document. Note that not all suggestions have to be accepted. In some cases, the author might feel that the suggestion might conflict with one’s own objectives for that paper. In such situations, the authors can explain their reasons for their opinion and explain the alternate strategies they adopted for their revision.
The detailed response can take many forms. In many cases, authors organize the response in two parallel columns. In the first, they mention the suggestions of the editor and each reviewer. In the parallel line on the second column, they indicate how they responded to that suggestion.
Others go line by line through the revisions to comment next to each of them and elaborate their own responses and changes.
It is important for authors not to ignore any major suggestions of the reviewers. In most cases, the revised version will be sent to the same reviewers for a second review. The reviewers and editor will decline publication when they see that the author has not acted upon some of the important suggestions.
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How to Write a Winning Journal Response Letter (free templates)
The structure, tone, and style of your journal response letter (also known as a rebuttal letter) can all affect whether your research will be accepted for publication. Yet surprisingly, some researchers hurt their chances at this stage when they’re just a step from success.
They get defensive or snippy, use poor English, or don’t explain their reasoning. That can be costly. And they’re so close!
You can seal the deal with superb revisions and a strong response letter that explains your revisions and gives your rebuttal.
What makes a good journal response letter? Manners, diplomacy, logic, explanation, and good English. All of which are well within your reach.
Let’s look at the critical steps for responding to peer review and getting published. On the way, we’ll include insider tips from our published experts.
- 1.1 Responses from journals, and responding to them
- 1.2 Revising your manuscript
- 2.1 Polite, generic header and salutation
- 2.2 Express thanks
- 2.3 Give an overview/executive brief
- 2.4 End the letter on a positive note
- 2.5.1 First-person or third-person structure are both OK
- 184.108.40.206 Example peer reviewer suggestion:
- 220.127.116.11 Here’s another example peer suggestion:
- 2.6.1 Here are the same suggestions from the reviewers above, but this time the author is disagreeing with them:
- 3 A final word on journal response letters
Getting to the response letter stage
After you submit your manuscript to a journal, you’ll typically receive a reply of accept, reject, minor revisions, or major revisions . The first two are obvious; the second two will require a response letter and individual point-by-point responses to the issues the reviewers raised.
Keep in mind that you’ve already done well to make it this far! Science rejects about 80% on first submission and ultimately only published about 7%. Biomaterials ? 14.7% acceptance.
Even broad-reaching open-access journals are quite selective: PLOS ONE takes about 45% of submissions and BMJ Open about 40%.
Responses from journals, and responding to them
In general, journals give you about 1 month for “minor” issues like revising how you present your data or getting a professional English-language edit . They’ll give around 3 months for “major” revisions such as re-analysis or new studies.
As you work through your revisions, it’s best to work on your point-by-point response at the same time, like a journal of your revisions. Then it’ll be nearly done by the time you’re done revising. You’ll just have to brush it up and add the intro.
Regarding formatting of your revisions, check the journal’s guidelines or contact the journal directly to confirm what they prefer. Most likely they’ll be done with:
- amendments manually highlighted
- deletions marked with strikethrough
- changes made using a certain color (usually red)
- the Track Changes function in Word
- …or if it’s in LaTeX, you may need to use the Changes package
Revising your manuscript
When you choose to resubmit to the same journal, do whatever the peer reviewers recommend, if you agree.
This can include:
- performing and documenting additional requested experiments or analyses
- adding key references/citations
- adding or removing tables and figures
- improving your scientific English
You also may not agree with all the peer reviewers’ requests and suggestions. They’re human and they’re busy. They may be wrong or a bit off.
In this case, you have to consider if you can justify your choice to reject the suggestions.
You’ll need to provide a well-reasoned argument. For example, if the suggested experiments fell outside the scope of your study, make a strong case for why they’re not suitable.
Peer reviewers aren’t perfect, but they are standing between you and publication. And they must be dealt with calmly and respectfully.
Your manuscript will need to be revised to incorporate any changes you make such as new data. This may be a relatively painless text rework, or you may need to consult with a statistician and prepare new figures and tables. And this all leads to the response letter.
Structure and style of a journal rebuttal letter
The response/rebuttal letter to a journal is like a short version of the cover letter you initially sent when you submitted your work. This time, you don’t need to fully “sell” your entire study again, but the sale’s not done yet. You need keep the prospective “buyer” (the journal) interested. You need to close the deal.
The corresponding author should write the response letter on behalf of the authors.
“ A journal response letter is another opportunity for you to emphasize the importance and impact of your work to the journal, demonstrate your knowledge and authority on the research, and fully address the issues the peer reviewers have identified. “ — Geraldine Echue , PhD, CMPP Edanz Managing Editor
Stay professional, confident, and respectful. And use error-free English. The overall tone should be polite, business-like, and clear.
Regarding format, you’ll likely be submitting this as document, so structure it as you would structure a business letter. Don’t cut corners or treat it like a casual email.
Polite, generic header and salutation
Put the date, journal name, and either the name of the editor-in-chief or the editor who is handling the correspondence. Call them “Dr.” or “Professor” as appropriate.
If you’re not sure, check the journal’s Editorial Board information. If that still doesn’t give a title, Google them , check their latest studies, and/or look them up on ResearchGate or LinkedIn. As a default, use Professor + their last name. Do not use “Mr.” or “Ms.” (and never use “Mrs.”) unless they themselves used it in their letter to you.
Then address the first part of your response letter to that journal editor.
State the manuscript reference number and title so that the editor can refer to previous correspondence about your submission.
Dear Professor Smith,
Re: manuscript reference no. BH0914325J Please find attached a revised version of our manuscript… ”
No matter how much you agreed with the reviewers, or thought they were way off-target, thank them and the editor formally.
For example: “ We wish to thank you and the reviewers for your insightful comments. These have greatly helped us to improve the quality of our manuscript. “
Give an overview/executive brief
Provide an overview of the main changes you made to your study and explain how you indicated these revisions in the manuscript.
For example: “ In accordance with Reviewer 1’s comments, we deleted the table and prepared a new summary figure (Fig. 6). Our revisions to the text are recorded using Track Changes in MS Word. Our point-by-point responses to the reviewers’ comments are shown below. “
“ Editors are busy people and may only skim through response letters. But they want to get the impression that the authors are being comprehensive and taking the process seriously. The executive brief sentence saves them time and trouble. “ — Gareth Dyke , PhD Edanz Author Education Manager
End the letter on a positive note
Complete this part of the response letter by signing off as you did for your cover letter. For example:
“ We hope that these revisions are sufficient to make our manuscript suitable for publication in the British Journal of Haematology and look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience. “
Then provide the full contact details of the corresponding author and list your point-by-point responses below it.
Here’s an example of a full letter.
You can also download a cover letter template and peer response letter template from our learning resource library. They’re free.
And if you want to dig deeper, we offer simple, expert-designed courses to walk you through the entire research publication process, at the Edanz My Learning Lab .
Give your point-by-point responses
You should put a number by each reviewer’s comment (if they’re not already numbered), and go in sequence starting with Reviewer 1.
General rules on tone and style
- Be polite, always. This means using formal sentences, expressing thanks, and avoiding passive–aggressive or flat-out rude remarks.
- Be grateful. Peer review is a free service and it’s an essential and valuable part of the scientific publication process.
- Ignore the reviewer’s grammar or spelling mistakes, if any. Don’t correct them. Many reviewers are not native speakers or use curt, even rude, comments. That’s beyond your control; it’s not personal.
- Make sure YOUR spelling and grammar are perfect. Get a professional edit if there’s any chance your English is not perfect.
- Err on the side of over-explaining vs. being short or dismissive.
It’s also a positive gesture to give a general note of thanks before addressing each peer review comment.
First-person or third-person structure are both OK
There’s no specific rule of whether to use a first-person or third-person voice in your responses. You can feel confident using either. Just be consistent.
Also, unless you know the reviewer’s identity, refer to them in the gender-neutral “they”/”their”. Do NOT use “he” as a default.
First person: “ Thank you very much for your detailed and useful comments. We have addressed each of them as follows. ”
Third person: “ We thank Reviewer 1 for their detailed and useful comments. We have addressed each of them as follows. ”
If you agree with the suggestion and revised accordingly
If you agree with the reviewer’s suggestion, say that you agree, and explain how you have modified your manuscript following that suggestion.
Example peer reviewer suggestion:
1. Standard deviation is large in Fig. 3 data . ANOVA should be used after confirming normal distribution.
Response: We thank Reviewer 1 for this valuable suggestion and we agree. Accordingly, we modified our statistical analyses. We performed ANOVA after first performing a logarithmic transformation of all variables. We have described this change in Statistical Analysis in the Methods section (p.4, lines 15–20). We also modified our Results (p. 7, lines 2–6) and Discussion sections (p. 9, lines 11–13) in line with this change, and modified Figure 3 based on the revised data.
Note the use of bold and italics to distinguish the authors’ response from the reviewer’s comment. There is a clear explanation of what was done in the revised manuscript.
Page and line numbers were also used to indicate where the changes were made. These numbers are helpful for the reviewers, but it’s best to add them when you’re fully done with your revisions, but they will change as your manuscript changes. Double-check all page and line numbers before re-submission, to be sure they’re accurate.
Here’s another example peer suggestion:
2. Subjective well-being needs more background in the lit review. Include mention of how it intersects with happiness studies, health psychology, I/O psychology, and overall QOL.
Response: We thank Reviewer 1 for this suggestion. We regret that our literature review was somewhat inadequate. Accordingly, we have added relevant studies in the Introduction (p. 3, lines 5–6 and 19–21). We hope there is now a more accurate portrait of the significance of subjective well-being).
This was a shorter comment. As the authors agreed, the response shows sufficient thanks and gives sufficient details. The added text will speak for itself.
“ Clearly and concisely summarize the changes you made in response to the peer review comments, especially if there are ones you don’t agree with. “ — Gareth Dyke , PhD Edanz Author Education Manager
If you disagree with the peer reviewer’s suggestion
You do have the right to disagree.
But unless the reviewer’s request was completely off-base or misinformed, try to incorporate it at least partially. For example, if they suggest adding reference to three studies, but you find those studies mostly irrelevant, try to accommodate at least one. It also shows you’re open to criticism, which is essential in scientific studies.
If you completely disagree with a reviewer’s suggestion, you need to give a convincing counterargument. This is called a rebuttal. It’s where you diplomatically and rationally explain why you disagree.
Try to understand the reviewer’s perspective. Perhaps they are not familiar with your methodology. Or maybe their strength is in a slightly different niche.
Use citations to back your argument, where possible, and present a solid case.
Here are the same suggestions from the reviewers above, but this time the author is disagreeing with them:
Response: Thank you for your suggestion. Although we acknowledge that the use of ANOVA would enable us to better compare our findings with those of other studies, our data did not follow a normal distribution; thus, we could not perform this analysis. We therefore re-analyzed our data based on the Leverhaus model (Leverhaus et al., 1978) and modified the Methods section to describe this analysis (p. 4, line 8). We also revised Figure 3 and added two sentences to the Discussion to explain this model (p. 10, lines 1–3).
This accomplishes all the goals of expressing thanks, being polite and diplomatic, showing disagreement, compromising by making a related change, and giving thorough explanation throughout.
Response: Thank you for this suggestion. We acknowledge the significance of subjective well-being and we felt our literature review put it in adequate context by mentioning its growing association with a number of fields since the seminal work by Diener (1984). We must note that subjective well-being is not a central theme in our study. Additionally, the journal’s word limitations only permit us to add a small number of words to the manuscript. For these reasons, we felt it was not feasible to accommodate the suggestion in full. Accordingly, however, we see the importance of the relation with happiness studies and have added reference to that (p. 3, lines 5–6). We hope this satisfies your request. Again, we do sincerely appreciate your guidance.
The authors had a good reason (study scope and the journal’s word limits) for not extending their literature review. They explained it diplomatically and compromised by adding a reference. They also erred on the side of over-explaining. In a response letter, there’s no harm in that.
“Through effective communication with peer reviewers, the response letter is a mechanism by which you can improve your manuscript and your research ability.” — Geraldine Echue , PhD, CMPP Edanz Managing Editor
A final word on journal response letters
Though a response letter to a journal, and your point-by-point responses to reviewers take a bit of time, they’re part of the process. They’re also, potentially, the last step before you get published. Keep your eye on that final, glorious goal. You want to get published, maintain or increase your publication rate , and get cited.
Being overly defensive or refusing to make any concessions to the peer reviewers could lead to your rejection. Then you’re off to another journal and have to go through all the same steps. Do you really want that?
For more details on how to effectively submit your manuscript and deal with peer review, we offer the Journal Submission and Peer Review among the many courses in Edanz Learning Lab. Try a free lesson now. Of course, we’re also happy to edit your re-submission and edit or even write your point-by-point response letter .
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