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I recently got a short referee’s report on a paper I submitted. They made superficial remarks concerning notation and writing style, and then admitted that they did not even read the main result. Is this acceptable for a referee?

The editor took their recommendation and rejected the paper.

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    Are you asking a question, or looking for sympathy? – Yemon Choi Aug 17 '17 at 1:42
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is more of a rant in the form of a question. – Fomite Aug 17 '17 at 2:15
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    No, a reviewer cannot be expected to "trudged thorough [sic]" a manuscript. If he finds the writing style hard to read, take that as constructive criticism and fix it. Then you can resubmit (at the same journal if allowed or somewhere else). The only surprising thing here (based on the information you provide) is that your manuscript was not desk-rejected by the editor. Writing style is important. – Roland Aug 17 '17 at 6:55
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    why cant people understand me – Maybe because more than half of your original question was about something else. Also, while your question is answerable, I consider it most likely that your account of the situation is not accurate and thus the answers won’t help you. – Wrzlprmft Aug 17 '17 at 20:05
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    "is it acceptable to reject a paper for superficial reasons?" No, not really. For example, it would be unacceptable to reject a paper simply because your last name started with "M" and the reviewer didn't like that letter. But, neither notation nor writing style are superficial attributes of a paper. Thus, without being able to see the paper and the referee report, it is simply impossible for anyone reading your question to know if this is a genuine instance of a paper being rejected for superficial reasons. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. – John Coleman Aug 18 '17 at 3:08
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Referees don't reject papers: editors do. You may feel the report was superficial but apparently the editor does not subscribe to this point of view.

You can make an appeal to the journal or the editor, pointing out politely that since the referee (alledgedly) admits to not having read the body of the paper, you would be grateful if the editor could add some constructive comments so you can make changes and resubmit, but don't hold your hopes up.

You are unlikely to win by challenging the report directly: if your appeal looks like a complaint it will be ignored; you are more likely to get some traction if you ask for clarifications on why the report was so short, why referee did not bother to read the main body, what specific published work that the referee used to reach her/his conclusion, etc.

  • That seems reasonable. I sent an appeal to the editor. We'll see what happens. It's just frustrating when my results are correct. I would have gladly re-written the exposition, but oh well. – Forever Mozart Aug 18 '17 at 6:24

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