Two weeks after sending my manuscript to a journal, it was rejected in the pre-review stage and hence, there were no comments from reviewers about problems with the paper.

  • Can poor scientific writing be the reason for this fast rejection?
  • What do editors do in the pre-review stage?
  • How can I diagnose problems with a rejected paper?

Thank you for submitting your article to AIDS.

Unfortunately, your paper did not receive a high enough priority rating, and the Editors have decided that it should not be accepted for publication in AIDS.

Decisions regarding acceptance of papers in AIDS are made in reference to the Editors pre-review and also in relation to the standard of other papers submitted. Our rejection rate is more than 70% and to save time the Editors of the Journal collectively evaluate submissions and consider whether a panel of other reviewers should review the article by determining if it would be of high enough interest to be selected for publication. On this occasion the Editors assessed your article without asking for formal reviews. There are therefore no reviewers' comments.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your work. We regret that we cannot publish your paper at this time, but we hope that you will consider submitting future papers to AIDS.


2 Answers 2


The pre-review stage is generally a very quick assessment of the manuscript in which editors go through it to check primarily whether the article matches the scope of the journal, the level of novelty of the study, and how interesting it would be to the target audience. For a journal that has a 70 percent rejection rate, I don't think they would give enough time to a paper at the pre-review stage to reject it on the basis of the writing style, unless the style is really very bad. They would probably just read the cover letter, abstract, and results and discussion section carefully and skim through the rest of the paper.

I don't think there is any way to learn more about the reasons for rejection from the journal. However, don't get upset or think that the quality of your paper is not good. Since this journal has such a high rejection rate, it is natural that only the very best or the most path breaking studies will find their way to this journal. This journal might not consider your study novel enough or interesting enough, but there are many other journals that will find it interesting. At this stage, there isn't much that you can do to improve your paper, as you haven't received any reviewer comments. You will have to just submit it to the next journal and hope that the paper goes through peer review.


Going by what was written in the letter, the editors did not consider your paper sufficiently relevant for the journal from a quick assessment. In this case they are unlikely to accept a revised version of your paper (unless you add research that increases the paper’s relevance). The only hint at how your paper can be improved is that you might better highlight its relevance, in particular in abstract and conclusions – which were likely the only thing the editors read and based their rejection on. Except for this, nothing needs to be wrong with your paper (of course, it may be, but only peer review will tell). I once had a paper rejected for a similar reason, which was later accepted by another similarly ranking journal with minor changes.

However, some editors put little effort into telling you what’s wrong when desk-rejecting, resorting to some canned text. I once had a paper desk-rejected with a comment that it failed to meet the criteria of “high quality, scientific interest, and being an important contribution to the literature” and when asking which of these criteria it failed, I was told that the editors did not consider the paper to be in the journal’s scope. Thus, if you politely ask whether they could give you any hint as to what’s wrong with your paper (without disputing the decision), they might give you more to work with.

How can I diagnose problems with a rejected paper?

The best way is to have a it “privately peer-reviewed” by a colleague. If you have doubts of the quality of your scientific writing, you should choose somebody who is more experienced in this matter. If your doubts are about language quality, the obvious choice would be colleague with good English skills (but this alone helps little, if they are not knowledgeable on your subject). If those are not available, try to find somebody with a different native language.

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