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Thank you for submitting your manuscript "Article title" which we are regretfully unable to offer to publish.

It is YYY' policy to return a substantial proportion of manuscripts without sending them to referees. Decisions of this kind are made by the editors of YYYs according to the demanding editorial criteria of the journal.

In the present case, while your findings may well prove stimulating to others' thinking about such questions, we regret that we are unable to conclude that the work provides the sort of firm advance in general understanding that would warrant publication in YYY.

We are sorry that we cannot respond more positively on this occasion.

Why they do not send my work to referees while they are unable to conclude that the work provides the sort of firm advance?

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By the way, this seems to be the form letter used by some Nature Publishing Group journals for work they consider to be outside of mainstream science (although perhaps they use it more broadly too). For example, searching for "your findings may well prove stimulating to others' thinking" leads to web pages where authors discuss the rejection of manuscripts on a lot of unusual theories (e.g., pyramid gravity). If your work does not belong in that category, then this suggests that you really need to work on the presentation of your paper to clarify its status. –  Anonymous Mathematician Dec 17 '12 at 18:30
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up vote 21 down vote accepted

They do not send your manuscript to reviewers because they consider that the chance of it being accepted (with revisions) is very small, so that it's not worth reviewers' time.

Their phrasing is just a polite way of saying that the manuscript you have submitted is either clearly out of scope, or clearly not good enough. Maybe you are aiming for a too prestigious journal, or maybe your work is not novel enough. It is also possible that your actual work is very good, but that your description of your work is poor, so that the editors concluded erroneously that it doesn't show much advancement. It is not possible to conclude in general what the true reason is.

If you have no experience in submitting manuscripts to scientific journals, and you have no cooperation with somebody who does, getting a manuscript published is quite difficult. If you don't already, I would suggest you strike up a cooperation with someone who has experience in publishing scientific articles. They could advise where to publish and how to formulate conclusions.

Edit: Also read Benoït Kloeckners excellent remark below: indeed it is your advantage if you know quickly that your paper won't be published, rather than only after a time-consuming peer-review.

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I'd like to stress that the pre-refereeing stage can be an advantage to the journal and the potential reviewers, but also to the author. Rather than getting rejected after several months of review, it is far better to be rejected right away and let the long review occur only when there is a high probability of acceptance. –  Benoît Kloeckner Dec 17 '12 at 12:20
    
it may be possible that referees are able to conclude that the work provides the sort of firm advance –  Neo Dec 17 '12 at 13:09
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@Neo: I think you are taking the letter too literally when they write "we are unable to conclude...". As gerrit says, it is just a polite way of saying that they have concluded that it is not a firm advance. If they thought there was any real likelihood of publication after further reviewing, they would have sent the paper to referees. –  Anonymous Mathematician Dec 17 '12 at 13:49
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Actually, I interpret the phrase "we are unable to conclude" literally: It is not obvious that the paper represents a firm advance. But then I also infer that obviously representing a firm advance is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition for publication in that journal. In other words, if the editor can't tell, then neither can most readers. The net effect is the same: The editor judged that your paper had no chance of being accepted. –  JeffE Dec 17 '12 at 15:22
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