Getting your manuscript published can be a major challenge. Not only do you need to write the most compelling manuscript, you also need to sell the work to the editor, and convince a diverse set of reviewers that your paper should be published. For high impact journals, it also has to be understandable to the broader reader.
To help, we asked our editors here at Life Science Editors for their top tips. We’re the only group of editors who have all worked at one of the top science journals – we know what journal editors think because we’ve been there. Now we work for scientists like you – to help you succeed in obtaining publications and grants. Here are our Top Tips for manuscript writing.
• Keep it simple (and short). “There is no form of prose more difficult to understand and more tedious to read than the average scientific paper.” Francis Crick (1994). Explain everything clearly using short, bite-sized sentences, and avoid complicated wording. Paragraphs should have just one major point.
• Write logically not chronologically. The most memorable manuscripts have a narrative structure. How you tell the story directly influences how it is perceived and what people will do with it (forget it, remember it, use it).
• What’s the point? In the Introduction, tell the reader why they should care about your work. What was known before your study and how does your study move the field forward? In the Discussion, outline the broad (but realistic) implications.
• Consider your audience. Editors, reviewers, and readers value different things. Editors value papers that stand out from the hundreds of submissions they get on a range of topics. Reviewers value papers that are convincing, as well as considerate and of value to their field. Readers value clear explanations. Make sure you engage the whole audience.
• Explain don’t hype. Accurately describe and interpret the data and, most importantly, acknowledge limitations and weaknesses.
• Tailor it to the journal. First impressions count. Don’t send your rejected Nature-formatted paper straight to Science. Know the scope of the journal and what they publish in your field.