Editors’ Pet Peeves and Gold Stars

Every journal editor has particular practices that are favored over others, and some of these are unique to the particular journal.  But there are a handful of almost universal pet peeves, and practices that would earn a gold star, things that make an editor smile!  One issue surfaced recently that prompted me to reflect on some of my particular likes and dislikes, and why.  So I decided to share my personal lists with a brief commentary on each item, and invite other editors to comment and add ideas of your own.

Gold Stars

  • The journal requirements for style and format are followed precisely!  This saves our copy editors hours of excruciating work, and it is a signal that the author has attended to details that make this journal what it is.  A consistent style and format helps readers to focus on the content, instead of being distracted by matters of style.
  • The author’s own voice and message stands out!  I want to know what this author has to contribute to the topic they are addressing so that what we publish is unique, and presents a fresh perspective to our readers.
  • The author uses an active voice, including the use of first person pronouns to refer to themselves.  There is still a lingering belief that professional writing should not use first person pronouns.  To the contrary, the best writing guidelines endorse the use of first person pronouns and an active voice instead of the awkward third-person, passive voice practices of part decades.  I caution authors to use the first person sparingly to avoid excessive “egotism” in their work, but the admonition to not use first person at all is outdated.

Pet Peeves

  • First on this list has to be a failure to earn my “gold star” points!  In fact, failure to adhere to the journal’s style and format is one of the major reasons that I send a manuscript back to the author.  The other two points are not grounds for getting the manuscript rejected, but they do influence the review of the manuscript in less-than-positive way.
  • Failure to respond to editorial communications in a timely manner.  Of course this is a two-way street and I place a high priority on my own prompt and timely communication with authors; I expect the same from authors and reviewers as well.  Timely responses are particularly important once a manuscript goes into production, when we need to have page proofs reviewed and author queries attended to in a time frame that meets the production schedule.
  • Use of the designation “PhD(c).”  I blogged about this issue on the ANS post titled How to list your credentials and title when you publish.  A reader challenged my position and stated that this designation can be used, so I looked into the matter further.  I found  that some Universities do sanction the use of this designation by those who have reached candidacy, but none that I found award this as a degree. A few do award a Candidate in Philosophy (C.Phil) designation, also referred to as an “intermediate degree” but this designation is only good for 7 years, which is the typical time period after which any “candidacy” expires. There is no indication that I can find that affirms the use of this designation as a title. If it is the practice of an institution to use the designation internally, then certainly a doctoral candidate is well advised to use it in that context. However, given that candidacy does expire, I maintain the use this designation in a published work, which will survive the time frame of the designation, is not appropriate.

What are your “gold stars” and “pet peeves?”  Share your comments here!

6 thoughts on “Editors’ Pet Peeves and Gold Stars

  1. Well said, Peggy! Another gold star for me: The author understands and respects the role of the editor in editing the manuscript: the two are a team! A pet peeve: Authors who don’t let you know they won’t make a deadline until you email them a day or two after the deadline to see ask where the manuscript is. We all certainly understand that things happen, but we appreciate knowing right away if there is going to be a delay because we plan out our editorial calendars in advance.
    It would be interesting to hear about authors’ gold stars and pet peeves with editors…

  2. Hi Peggy,

    Great post! For me, a gold star is when I receive a manuscript from an author who has actually looked at my journal–maybe is even a reader–and has familiarity with what we publish, our style, and our format. The pet peeve of this is the author who has obviously never cracked open the journal–never even taken the time to look at one PDF article online.

    I have a competing journal (informatics, but not in nursing) that uses structured abstracts and numbered headings (1, 1.1, 1.1.1, etc). I use neither but have received many manuscripts that are formatted that way. It’s not rocket science to figure out the paper was rejected there and now sent to me. Couldn’t the author at least tried to disguise the paper a little bit by correcting the format to CIN style? Sigh…


  3. Great blog post, Peggy. My pet peeve is authors who resubmit the manuscript WITHOUT making the reviewer changes OR commenting on why they chose not to do this. Do they think we are going to miss this??? I also hate it when authors try to influence the editorial decision about the manuscript by their relationship with the editor. Ths doesn’t happen often but it is very uncomfortable…

    Gold star to those who return edited manuscripts in a timely fashion and are polite. geri

  4. Peggy – I am with you 100% on using the journal’s instructions for authors. We also provide a style guide and a sample title page. It is very clear that these documents are rarely used – even when I attach send them to authors who have submitted papers or are considering a submission. I love a properly formatted MS – everyone has an easier time. A good first impression goes a long way.

    A related pet peeve: reviewers who do a full editing job on the manuscript. I know it is hard to ignore style and grammar problems (hence, the need for authors to submit well-formatted and proofed papers), but editing gets in the way of the purpose of the review – to assess the quality of the paper – and it wastes the reviewer’s time.

    So I give a gold star to reviewers who make a one-sentence observation that there are a lot of formatting, grammar, spelling, etc. problems that will need to be addressed. This gives authors a heads up that major editing is in their future and it allows the reviewer to go back to assessing content.

    And a final gold star: Authors who learn from our work with them. I love it when I see a 2nd or 3rd submission from an author who has taken our edits to heart and who makes fewer formatting and style errors in subsequent papers. Kudos to those who learn from their publishing experiences!

  5. Great comments and I certainly agree with the gold stars and pet peeves posted. Gold star to those authors who respond to reviewer comments in an organized manner or indicate a sound rebuttal as to why they choose not to revise a specify section of the paper. The comments are very helpful!

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