I submitted it yesterday, after sending it to a repository. Then, a colleague gave a quick read and found some narrative issues, i.e., our abstract seems to be claiming something we did not do and we did not give much importance for some classical results in our introduction. He pointed out that any reviewer who knows those classical results will raise a red flag when reading our paper. So, I want to withdraw it, if possible, change the text and re-submit it to the same journal. How bad it is to do that?

Just another question:

How bad it is to simply e-mail the editor asking for a chance of re-submission due to some issues with the paper itself?

It is a mathematics journal and the status is currently "with editor".

Thanks in advance!

  • 10
    I'm curious what someone actually in a position to know will say, but my feeling is that something this soon would not be much of a disruption -- the editor might not have even gotten around to glancing at it yet for reviewer possibilities or consideration of desk rejection. Maybe you could fib a little, and say the paper was mistakenly submitted before some changes by one of the authors had been incorporated (unless it's a single-authored paper, in which case you don't want to say exactly this). Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 16:18
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    I guess it is totally fine. A sample text would be ‘Could you please return the file to us? We mistakenly uploaded the wrong version. ‘ if you say that your co-authors raised the major issues after submission, then the editor may doubt about the collaboration and there might be some gap between the authors - although it is commonly seen that after submission we all see the major issues; since your paper is in early stage, so there is no harm to request to resubmit.
    – user199
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 16:28
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    Better than withdrawing it later on...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 5, 2020 at 18:02
  • 5
    This is why I always let a few weeks go by between posting to the arxiv and submitting to a journal. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 2:14
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    @JonCuster: That should be an answer actually.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 10:10

5 Answers 5


I am a co-editor of an interdisciplinary journal (social sciences/humanities). I would rather an author withdraw and get the piece into shape than for us to either read it and have to desk reject, or to send to reviewers and they flag it. It's mildly embarrassing but like so many things in academia (and life), you will care more than they will care – it is trivial for me to return a paper to an author.

If the editorial management system allows you to withdraw the paper, even better.

  • Actually, a withdrawal through the management system may have undesired repercussions (e.g. inability to resubmit, and nobody knowing about your situation), so it's not always better.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Aug 8, 2020 at 10:11

I once withdrew a paper shortly after submission (IIRC a week or so; found a mistake in the data analysis code and said so to the editor).
The editor basically answered thank your for letting us know* and that if we resubmit within the next so many weeks, they'd count it as revised submission that keeps the original submission date, if we need longer to fix everything we should do so as entirely new submission.

That was basically all there was to it - and really much less painful than one would think beforehand.

I'd recommend being open to the editor about the reason: someone showing up with "I made a mistake and need to correct it" is trustworthy.
Also, if I understand you correcty, you got an important comment on the preprint. If that is the case, you may tell the editor that you got an important comment about ... on the public preprint which you think should be addressed, and ask whether they prefer you to this now or to bundle it in with the revision.

* I don't think a reviewer would have had an earthly chance to spot the mistake although it did have consequences for the results (didn't change the broader picture, but they were visible with the naked eye). In my field back then publishing the code alongside was unknown.


You should withdraw it immediately. Reviewers are not paid for their time in reading your paper, though they have other motives to do it. So if you withdraw while it is with the editor you save everybody's time, most importantly, yours.

It is indeed careless of you to have not got it proofread before submitting. But better to fix the mistake right away.

Be polite and smart in writing a withdrawal letter to the editor. And do get it proofread by your friend.

Best of luck!

  • 1
    Many (though not all) reviewers are paid also for their time reviewing by the taxpayer money that pays their salary. Which, however, does not change the conclusion that their (or anybody else's) time should not be wasted in any way. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 7:43
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX That is false. You can tell because if they stop reviewing, they keep getting a salary. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 8:01
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: In all research and academic institutes where I worked, reviewing was considered a professional activity. Consider putting in 2h of reviewing in your office during work time, and compare that to putting in 2 h at your office during work time of organizing the next tour/a training camp/a competition of your sports club where you volounteer as a tour guide or trainer. For most researchers I know, the two would be judged as extremely different. I may add that one research institute I had to report annually of how many reviews I did for which journals. In the other institutes, Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 9:12
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX In my experience conference presentations definitely do get people hired and promoted (though they are a small factor compared to publications in my field) while peer reviewing is worth zero. You should notice your supervisor is giving you peer reviews to do because he does not actually need to do them himself. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 9:28
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    @cbeleitesunhappywithSX There is no way peer review would get discussed in a job interview. This conversation is boring me. Commented Aug 6, 2020 at 10:09

Sounds like the real question is, "there are some minor issues in my submission, how do I fix them?" There's nothing wrong per se with withdrawing so you can submit a corrected version.

In theory reviewers are not supposed to reject you for errors that can be corrected, such as inaccuracies in the abstract that can easily be rewritten. So if it's something that can be easily fixed, it won't matter that much in the end and you will probably still get an opportunity to fix it after reviews. Granted, reviewers are humans and one error may bias them to judging you more harshly, so it depends somewhat on how nice your reviewers will be. But you can never escape from the human factor anyway.

I think most journals will not mind the retraction too much, especially so soon after submission and if you phrase it diplomatically (don't make it sound like you didn't bother proofreading before firing it off). Some may even have a submission system that makes it a non-issue for the staff. But it is also possible that the retraction creates a bunch of hassle and stress for the editor, who may have already done work to process your submission and assign reviewers. The submission is not supposed to be a living document, but your final draft. Of course being a draft, it's not perfect -- the reviewers are there to help you with that. But if you keep withdrawing and resubmitting over minor errors, it is annoying to the editor. And if you have already withdrawn and resubmitted once, who's to say when you will be satisfied and stop "fixing" it?

It's really not possible to say from your question whether the error is minor or not. If it is minor, don't bother. You will get a reviewer comments telling you that part is wrong, and you can submit a response saying you rewrote it. If you believe the error truly sinks your whole paper, then you probably do want to withdraw, as reviewers would recommend outright rejection. But it seems like you believe that it can be easily fixed, and the reviewers will probably have the same opinion.


"He pointed out that any reviewer who knows those classical results will raise a red flag when reading our paper."

Then it would be in your best interest to withdraw the paper immediately (the sooner the better) and re-submit once you've fixed the problem, and perhaps write a genuine and truly apologetic (but not too long) email to the handling editor.

"Is it bad to withdraw a manuscript one day after it has been submitted?"

Indeed it's bad that you are in this situation. This is what happens when you rush. There is a saying: "haste is waste". The editor might remember that you once submitted a paper and retracted the submission within 24 hours, and it certainly doesn't look great (the most successful academics are very careful people, and this does not happen to them, at least in the vast majority of the papers they submit).

But there is nothing specifically bad/worse about withdrawing the submission now that you're already in this situation. If you follow the advice in my first paragraph, the editor is likely to forgive you and you can just take this as a learning experience :)

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