When and How to Write an Email to a Journal Editor

by Denise Mager
When and how to write an email to a journal editor

The question of whether or not to contact a journal editor can be a tough question for most authors. But then this is not a job application or soliciting a favor. For starters, I would check the specifications of your target journal regarding contacting the Editorial board and then ask yourself if it is really necessary to contact them. You can always find additional information in their most frequently asked questions (FAQs). These sections will let you know about processing times, important regulations, etc. Most journals provide the contact details of the editorial office and separate contact details for journal editors. Depending on your enquiry, this can give you the option to reach out for general questions or specific ones, respectively.

The submission to publishing process can be like a long waiting game. Each journal has a specific process for submissions that varies with the demand. Notably, high-impact journals can take longer, and not because the process is more thorough but because the editors have to go through a large number of articles to give a fair chance to every submission. If the editor deems the paper worth publishing, it is followed by the selection of expert reviewers. Invitations are sent according to recommendations (sometimes from the authors), but reviewers are often busy and do peer-reviewing in their own free time. I was once invited to review a paper by a reputable journal but I was away on fieldwork with no internet access. The following day, the invitation was withdrawn, probably because they needed to move ahead in the peer-reviewing process. Other journals are more accommodating and may give reviewers a longer time to respond and to submit their review.

Assuming that you are reading this because you indeed feel like you need to contact the journal editor, here are some tips. There is no one-sample-fits-all email to an editor because every enquiry is different, therefore, some scenarios are provided below to allow you to decide what suits you best.

Here are some of the instances of when you should contact the journal editor

Contact the journal editor immediately:

– If there have been some changes to the list of authors on your submitted manuscript.

– If conflict of interests have risen since the submission of the article (some funding agencies change their regulations from time to time), these also have to be disclosed.

– If the estimated time for a reply has been exceeded (by more than a day––I would suggest to wait about a week if this is the case) or you want an update after the revisions have been submitted. Remember, some delays cannot be controlled!

-When writing a review article, some journals recommend contacting the Editor-in-Chief in advance to make sure that they are interested in the review that you are working on.

How to write an email to a journal editor: Things to keep in mind

Now that we have established the when, let’s go over a few tips on how to write an email to a journal editor.

First, the email should only come from the corresponding author and should be addressed to the editor that acknowledged your submission.

– Almost as importantly, clearly introduce yourself with the reference number provided to your manuscript. You are not just a number but this detail will allow the editor to access your file easily, which ultimately may help in getting an answer to your query more quickly.

– Be specific. This relates to being clear about why you are contacting the journal editor.

– Be polite. I don’t need to elaborate much with this point, but it is always advised to be professional and courteous in your communication!

– If the article has been accepted but it is under internal editing, then contact the relevant department; they may be able to provide you with the DOI or the valid preliminary citation.

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– Lastly, offer a potential answer, whether it is to provide additional information, get a response, receive feedback on content issues, or something related to your specific enquiry.

So yes, even when you follow the publishing and editorial policies, you can contact the journal editor. Just as long as you know how to do it effectively!

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