How to Avoid Desk Rejection: Stop Making These 5 Mistakes

by Elizabeth Oommen George

No one likes to be rejected. However, the sad truth is that research authors have to deal with their fair share of rejection, some more than others. A discouraging study on submissions from 18 countries revealed that journal rejection rates can range from 22.6% to 73.4%, depending on the journal they submit to.1 In fact, top journals in the scholarly publishing world are known to reject more than 90% of the manuscript submitted, across research fields.2 With such daunting numbers, you may wonder how to avoid desk rejection and, more importantly, how do you find the courage and motivation to continue? America’s greatest inventor Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.” This statement is given credence by data that shows at least 62% of manuscripts that are published have been rejected at least once before seeing success.3

When it comes to scholarly publishing, the reasons for desk rejection are more often than not within your control and can be easily avoided with a smart manuscript submission readiness check.Take a look at some of the most common mistakes that lead to rejection, along with expert tips and a smart solution to help authors understand how to avoid desk rejection and maximize chances of publication success.

5 Common mistakes and tips on how to avoid desk rejection

Understand the key missteps authors to desk rejection with expert tips to maximize your chance for publication success.

Mistake 1: Not ensuring your manuscript is original, novel, and a good match forthe target journal’soverallaims and scope is a sure shot recipe for desk rejection.

Solution for researchers:

  • Choose the most relevant and reliable journal for your paper, and state why your results are interesting for its audience. This is the most important step required to avoid desk rejection.
  • Ensure your results are generalizable and have significant practical, clinical, or theoretical implications in your field of research.

Mistake 2: Submitting a manuscript that is poorly presented with often avoidable language, grammar and spelling errors.

Solution for researchers:

  • The language of your research is known to be among the top reasons for desk rejection. Do a thorough check to eliminate any critical grammar, language and spelling errors, to ensure you’re using technical terms correctly, and to avoid the extensive use of jargon.
  • Structure your manuscript as per the recommended format for your target journal, highlight all the main points, and ensure your paper is complete to escape the desk rejection verdict.

Mistake 3: Falling prey to ethical malpractices, such as plagiarism, simultaneous submission, etc.

Solution for researchers:

  • Writing technical content can be difficult, especially if someone else has done it well. But always remember to place copied text within quotation marks and paraphrase content properly; it’s also key to cite the source correctly (even if it is your own published work) to prevent plagiarism and possibly desk rejection.
  • Most researchers need to wait for a while before they get a decision on their manuscript. These delays, high journal rejection rates, and the need to publish faster can tempt some to consider simultaneous submission. Avoid this ethical misstep to avoid desk rejection; submit to only one journal at a time and wait till the editorial process is done before you approach a new journal.

Mistake 4: Flaws in project research methodology or study design

Solution for researchers:

  • This is one of the key things editors check when evaluating whether manuscripts will face desk rejection or be sent forward for peer review. So be sure to do an in-depth literature review to find and follow the best research methodology and processes for your project.
  • Ensure you write a clear, well-formulated statement of the problem for your study that highlights its significance, which may steer the verdict away from desk rejection.

Mistake 5: Not checking forinconsistencies and not keeping to the recommended manuscript length

Solution for researchers:

  • Check for inconsistencies between tables, figures and text, reference numbering, and other small flaws in your paper that could lead to desk rejection.
  • Also, check for and then keep to the recommended journal word count; do not manipulate line spacing, fonts, or declare incorrect article length.

There can be many reasons for desk rejection, but these are just some of the most common mistakes for increased journal rejection rates. It’s important to remember that by putting in time to select the right journal, identifying the basis of your study, polishing the format and content of your manuscript, and following journal guidelines, authors can maximize their chance of acceptance. Think you’ve made all the right moves, but wondering if you can still optimize your paper? Find out today with Paperpal Preflight, the manuscript readiness check you need to submit with confidence.


  1. S. Ehara, K. Takahashi – Reasons for rejection of manuscripts submitted to AJR by international authors. AJR Am J Roentgenol, 2007. Retrieved from
  2. S. Goldfinch, K. Yamamoto – Peer review, refereeing and their discontents: a failed model or simply the least worst option? Prometheus Assessed? Research Measurement, Peer Review, and Citation Analysis. ScienceDirect, 2012. Retrieved from
  3. S.A. Hall, A.J Wilcox – The fate of epidemiologic manuscripts: a study of papers submitted to epidemiology. Epidemiology. 2007. Retrieved from

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