Posted by: bluesyemre | October 16, 2022

How not to get your article published

How not to get your article published

First of all, we would like to boast about our latest impact factor (IF). It has now risen to 4.39! This is the highest we have ever attained and reflects the continuing improvement in article quality. The IF is measured independently by Clarivate and takes into account the number of times our articles are cited over the previous two years, currently up to 2020. The measure is influenced chiefly by Reviews and Original Articles but not by editorials, case reports or letters to the Editor. Partly because of this and the creation this year of a new sister journal, Neuroimmunology Reports, we no longer accept case-reports. If these are submitted you will be given the option to transfer the article to Neuroimmunology Reports, which is under the care of one of our Chief Editors, Michael Levy

Nobody likes to have their submission rejected. One is reminded of Schopenhauer’s three-stage reaction to bad news/the truth: (1) it is ridiculed. How could anyone fail to accept my work? It is ridiculous! The reviewers must all be raving lunatics, they just do not know the topic at all. I shall never send another paper to MS and Related Disorders, ever again. Period. (2) it is violently opposed. I am going to write to the Chief Editors about this travesty of justice. I am sure my University will support me and I have already notified my lawyer. (3) It is accepted as self-evident. Well, I suppose there might be some truth in what the reviewers have said. Maybe I should re-write parts of my paper and check out the statistics.

Believe it or not, we dislike having to reject submissions and you may be surprised to hear that our rejection rate is relatively low at 58%. Most high profile journals have much higher rates. MSARD is relatively tolerant of article format although it is important to have an Abstract with the usual headings namely, Introduction; Methods; Results; Conclusions. Highlights are required as well but reference citing style is flexible. In the Discussion section it is essential to list the strengths and weaknesses of your article. No-one likes to highlight any faults in their submission but failure to do this will guarantee revision or rejection. By all means use abbreviations but make sure they are defined, ideally at the end of your paper.

A detailed review of what to do if your paper is rejected appears elsewhere (Venketasubramanian and Hennerici, 2013). What follows below is some general advice which will hopefully increase your chances of acceptance.

1. Avoid naïve statements

Here are some examples:(a)

‘Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex disease with a mixture of inherited and environmental factors’. This is a naïve statement. There is no such thing as a pure genetic disease or pure environmental disease. Even in the case of a highly expressed autosomal dominant condition such as Huntington’s disease there are environmental agents that may accelerate or delay the age of presentation (Wexler et al. 2004).(b)

‘MS is a chronic autoimmune demyelinating and neurodegenerative condition of the central nervous system’. This statement or similar appears in the opening sentence of more than 50% of submissions. It really annoys reviewers! It is meaningless, because we do not know what causes MS and until then it is best to say something non-committal like ‘MS is a disorder of unknown origin’. Better still, just omit any statement about aetiology and introduce the topic of your article(c)

‘Our results suggest that there may be an association between MS and environmental factor X but clearly further work is needed’. If this is the conclusion, the chances of acceptance are low. If you have a new idea but little or no statistical evidence it is correct, then it is best to withhold your submission and wait until you have more data(d)

Avoid writing ‘this is the first study to show…’ or ‘we show for the first time that…’. Invariably this will encourage the reviewer to double check such a statement. The reviewer might have written something similar already!

2. Check the english grammar and style

We totally sympathise with language difficulties experienced by authors whose native language is not English. We are fairly tolerant of grammatical errors and many language mistakes are corrected by the proof-readers. Despite this, the published article must be readable by the majority of clinicians. A poorly written article is likely to annoy the reviewer and lead to major revision or rejection. If English is not your main language, we strongly advise you to seek help from a native English-speaking colleague, ideally with a scientific background. Failing that, there are several language editing services available including one from Elsevier, unfortunately at some cost.

Here are a few guidelines:(a)

Avoid tautologies. This refers to the repetition of the same word or phrase in a sentence or paragraph. For example ‘report’ could be replaced by ‘article’ ‘submission’ or communication. The word ‘risk’ is regularly over-used. It can be replaced with ‘liability’; ‘likelihood’ or ‘propensity’. For those who use Microsoft Word you can right-click on the word you wish to replace, click on ‘synonyms’ from the drop-down list and several alternatives will be offered.(b)

Avoid overused words or phrases. For example ‘however’. Replace with ‘Despite this’ or ‘Nevertheless’. ‘Needless to say’ could be replaced by ‘It’. Only use the word ‘significant’ in the statistical sense. Replace ‘It is emphasized/shown that’ with ‘note that’.(c)

Avoid the terms ‘former/latter’ and ‘respectively’. These are often confusing.(d)

Make phrases gender-neutral. That is, avoid ‘he’ or ‘she’ and replace with ‘they’ or ‘their’. For example: ‘a patient should be able to decide on whatever treatment he wants’. Replace with: ‘patients should be able to decide on whatever treatment they want’. Where gender must be defined replace ‘male’ or ‘female’, ‘lady or gentleman’ with ‘man’ or ‘woman’. Thus, you would refer to a ‘38 year old woman with MS’.(e)

It is preferable to avoid the phrase ‘MS patients’; ‘MS sufferers’, or ‘MS Clients’. A recent survey (Baker et al., 2016) showed that people with MS dislike the term. Replace this with ‘MSers’ or ‘People/persons with MS’.(f)

Make sure you understand the terms ‘prevalence’ and ‘incidence’ correctly when presenting epidemiological data.

Dozens more examples of poor style are listed in the article by Daroff et al. (1996).

We all hope that you will continue to submit high quality articles, that our IF will climb even higher and make MS and Related Disorders the number one journal for demyelinating diseases!

Declaration of Competing Interest

The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.


Baker et al., 2016

D. Baker, A. Anandhakrishnan, K.A. Tuite-Dalton, H. Lockart-Jones, R.M. Middleton, D.V. Ford, C. Crowe, G. Giovannoni

How to refer to people with disease in research outputs: the disconnection between academic practise and that preferred by people with multiple sclerosis

Mult. Scler. Relat. Disord., 10 (2016), pp. 127-133

Nov 1

ArticleDownload PDFView Record in ScopusGoogle ScholarDaroff et al., 1996

R.B. Daroff, A. Rossi, L.M. Stevens-Ross, L.P. Rowland

Suggestions to authors

Neurology, 46 (1) (1996), pp. 298-300

Jan 1 View PDF

View Record in ScopusGoogle ScholarVenketasubramanian and Hennerici, 2013

N. Venketasubramanian, M.G. Hennerici

How to handle a rejection

Cerebrovasc. Dis., 35 (3) (2013), pp. 209-212 View PDF

CrossRefView Record in ScopusGoogle ScholarWexler, 2004

N.S. Wexler

Venezuelan kindreds reveal that genetic and environmental factors modulate Huntington’s disease age of onset

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci., 101 (10) (2004), pp. 3498-3503

Mar 9

View Record in ScopusGoogle Scholar

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