Image Credit: Erica Steeves on Unsplash

If you manage peer review at one or more academic journals, you’re likely always on the lookout for ways to speed up your process. Any chance to shave off even a few minutes from peer review can help reduce your overall manuscript decision timeframes and editorial workloads, making both authors and editors a lot happier. One often-overlooked way to save time during peer review is using email templates. Most editors go through a weekly (or perhaps daily!) circuit of emailing out review requests, review reminders, manuscript decision letters, and the list goes on. Journals can save a lot of time by simply cutting down on email writing using templates.

An email template is a model email that contains the basic information an editor should include in an email on a particular topic. For example, your journal can draft email templates for manuscript decisions that contain the next steps editors should send all authors of accepted, rejected, or revise and resubmit submissions. With templates, rather than having to keep rewriting near-duplicate emails, editors can simply pull up the template they need, add any necessary customization, and send it off.

Ideally, your peer review software should include built-in email templates with the option to add merge tags. Merge tags will allow you to have certain information, like a recipient’s name, merged into your email automatically upon sending it. If you manage peer review manually, you can still create templates by keeping a document with template text that editors can paste into emails as needed.

In this blog post, we break down how to develop effective email templates for the journals you work with, including 7 examples. You’re welcome to repurpose and reuse these example templates to fit your needs.

Let’s get to it!

How to create effective email templates

The timesaving benefits of email templates are pretty plain to see, but you may be wondering the best way to go about composing them. The key to crafting effective email templates (as exhibited in the title of this blog) is to focus on making templates specifically for the most common peer review correspondences your journal sends — think manuscript decision letters, review reminders, and frequently asked questions. These are the emails relaying basic journal information or expectations that rarely change and could often be improved by greater uniformity. For example, journals can save time on email writing, and potentially improve their overall reviewer performance, by having all editors use the same review request email template containing reviewer guidelines and any other helpful information.

To start, we recommend creating email templates for the following:

  • Manuscript Acceptance Letter
  • Manuscript Rejection Letter Following Peer Review
  • Desk Rejection Letter
  • Revise and Resubmit Request
  • Referee Request

Once you have templates for the above common journal correspondences, meet with your editors to consider other frequent communications that could potentially be templated.

One concern that many journals grapple with when considering adopting email templates is whether they will seem too automated. While templates may sound less personal, the truth is, a well-crafted email template can actually make it easier for editors to take the time to address individual author concerns. All email templates should include built-in customization opportunities, so your team can insert information specific to recipients as needed. For example, all rejection letters should include a space for details on why an author’s manuscript was not a good fit for your journal.

Make sure every editor knows how to access your email templates

When developing a collection of email templates, it’s important to ensure that all editors know how to access them (and know about them in general!). This is where using peer review software that includes email template functionality can be especially useful. Most peer review systems provide the functionality to set up decision letter templates, and some also include the option to create custom email templates. For example, Scholastica’s built-in manuscript Discussion feature includes the option to create Discussion templates.

If you have to store email templates in a document, that’s okay too. Just be sure that all editors always have access to the latest version. An easy way to do this is to use a shared file system, such as Google docs.

Example peer review email templates

To help you get started, we’ve drafted some templates for common correspondences that you can customize to meet your journal’s needs. We’ve also created a Google doc with Markdown versions of these templates, which can be copied and pasted right into Scholastica.

Manuscript Acceptance Letter

One of the highlights of being a journal editor is getting to inform scholars who’ve authored high-quality manuscripts that you would like to publish their work. You’ll have even more time to enjoy this moment when you have an acceptance letter template to start with! The goal for your acceptance email should be to include as much upfront information as you can regarding next steps the author must take in order to move their submission to publication, as well as to address any common questions authors tend to ask at this point in the submission process.

Here’s an example acceptance letter:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
Hello {Insert author name},

I am pleased to inform you that {Insert journal name} would like to publish your manuscript "{Insert article name}" in our next issue. I am attaching a document with some basic required edits that need to be applied to your manuscript before it’s published.

In order to proceed to publish your submission we will need you to submit the following:

* A signed author agreement: [ADD LINK HERE...]
* Your edited manuscript - please include all of the edits outlined in the attached file
* [Insert any additional items your journal requires here...]

At this time we also want to remind you of our copyright and open access policies, [ADD LINK HERE...].

Once your manuscript is moved to publishing, our production editor will keep you informed of your article’s progress in the production process. You will also receive a proof of your manuscript for final review.

We’re excited to move forward with your submission. Please feel free to email me with any questions.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Manuscript Rejection Letter Following Peer Review

As much as you enjoy sending manuscript acceptance letters, crafting dreaded rejection letters is likely ten times worse. No editor likes to be the bearer of bad news. But, we promise, there are ways to make your rejections more constructive, and having a template will help you ensure you’re always including all of the information you should.

Below is an example:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Hello {Insert author name},

Thank you for submitting your manuscript "{Insert title}" to {Insert journal name}. Following careful consideration by the journal's editorial board and a group of expert reviewers, I regret to inform you that we are unable to accept your submission.

Although {Insert positive qualities about the manuscript here}, our editorial board and expert reviewers determined that the paper {Insert high-level explanation of why the paper doesn’t meet your publication standards}. Primary concerns expressed were that:

- [Insert specific concern...]
- [Insert specific concern...]
- [Insert specific concern...]

I am including the reviewer comments in this email for your reference. I hope you find this information helpful for submission at another journal, and we hope to see more of your work in the future.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Desk Rejection Letter

There will be times when you receive a manuscript that is clearly not a good fit for your journal, either because it is not a sound submission or because it falls beyond the grounds of your journal’s particular aims and scope. In this case, it’s important to be able to quickly send a desk rejection to the author, both to avoid delaying your journal’s manuscript time to decision and out of courtesy to the author so he or she can re-work the submission where needed and send it out to a different publication.

Here’s a sample desk rejection:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
Hello {Insert author name},

Thank you for submitting your manuscript "{Insert title}" to {Insert journal name}.

After careful consideration by our editors, we regret to inform you that we must decline this submission on editorial grounds and subsequently have declined to send the paper out to external peer reviewers. We found that {Insert explanation of why this particular manuscript is not fit for your publication...}. This paper may be a better fit for {Insert name(s) of other journals)}.

We thank you for your interest, and hope you choose to submit another article for review in the future.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Revise and Resubmit Request

Somewhere in-between the joys of sending acceptance letters and the woes of sending manuscript rejections lies the revise and resubmit request. Your journal will likely send out one of these to an author before you accept his or her submission. Perhaps even more important than the email body of your revise and resubmit request is that you ensure the reviewer comments you send the author are reasonable and indicate actionable steps for improvement. Once you’ve done this, be sure to attach them to your email and explain all next steps the author must take to proceed with the necessary revisions.

Here’s an example:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Hello {Insert author name},

Thank you for submitting your manuscript "{Insert title}" to {Insert journal name}. The editorial team and a group of expert reviewers have assessed your submission and feel that it has potential for publication, and so we would like to invite you to revise the paper and resubmit for further review.

We appreciate that your paper addresses {Insert positive quality about the paper's key objective}, but there were some concerns raised with regard to {Insert key concerns}. Please see the attached reviewer comments for further details about necessary revisions.

We ask that you submit the revised version of your manuscript by {Insert explanation of how to do this}.Please note, your revised manuscript should be accompanied by a summary of your responses to the reviewers' comments.

You have {Insert number} weeks to respond to this revise and resubmit request ending on {Insert hard deadline}, after which point we will presume that you have withdrawn your submission from {Insert journal name}.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Cascading or transfer manuscript desk reject decision

At organizations that publish multiple journals within the same discipline, there may be instances where a manuscript submission to one journal is not the best fit for that publication but could potentially be a fit for a related publication. In this case, the editor may choose to send a reject manuscript decision with the option to cascade or transfer the manuscript to the other journal.

The below template is based on a desk reject transfer decision. You can also create a variant of this template for a decision following peer review.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
Hello {Insert author name},

Thank you for submitting your manuscript "{Insert title}" to {Insert journal name}. Following editorial review we have determined that, unfortunately, your manuscript is not suitable for publication in our journal, which focuses on {insert specific journal information...}.

However, the Editors' opinion is that your manuscript is worthy of consideration and would like to suggest that you transfer it to {alternate journal}, where it will have an appropriate audience. Please note that acceptance of this offer to transfer does not guarantee acceptance of your manuscript as the Editors of {alternate journal} will still need to evaluate the manuscript. If you would like to have your manuscript transferred to {alternate journal} for consideration at that journal please [insert specific steps...].

If you prefer to submit your article to a different publication, please let the Editors know by [insert specific steps...]. Once you have, your submission will be rejected and you will receive an email confirmation. Once you have received this confirmation, you will be free to submit to the publication of your choice.

We thank you for submitting your manuscript to {Insert journal name} and we look forward to receiving your decision on this transfer opportunity.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Submission progress update to author

Another common correspondence for editors at many journals is responding to author inquiries about the status of their submission. You can speed up replies to status inquiry emails with a template that includes a status update option for each of the major phases of your peer review process. The below template includes a list of possible status options that you can modify or add to as needed.

Here is a sample submission progress update email:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
Hello {Insert author name},

Thank you for submitting your manuscript "{Insert title}" to {Insert journal name}. We are in the process of evaluating your manuscript. At this point your manuscript:

- Has been assigned to an editor and is awaiting reviewer confirmations
- Is under external review with [number] of [number] required reviews submitted
- Has all external reviews submitted and is awaiting final editorial review

We evaluate all manuscript submissions as expeditiously as possible and appreciate your patience throughout the peer review process. [You can track the status of your manuscript within our peer review system by navigating to...].

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Another tip to cut back on submission status request emails is to enable manuscript status updates within your peer review software. For example, Scholastica features a submission status progress bar that authors can reference to know where their manuscript is in peer review. If your journal has this feature, be sure to include it in submission status inquiry emails like the above.

Referee Request

We’ve spent a lot of time looking at author correspondences, but what about those review requests you’re always writing? The ideal review request should be friendly and to the point, including links to your journals peer review documents for those interested in learning more about your specific review process.

Here’s one approach:

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
Hello {Insert referee name},

{Insert journal name} has just received a manuscript entitled "{Insert manuscript name}," which I believe is your area of expertise and thought you might be interested in peer reviewing. I am including the article abstract in this email for your reference.

Would you be willing to submit a peer review for this article? I would need your review comments within the next {Insert number} weeks by {Insert hard deadline}.

[INSERT ABSTRACT HERE...]

If you’re willing to review this submission, I’ll need you to: {Insert next steps}.

For more information on {Insert journal name’s} peer review policy you can {Explain webpage link to visit or attach PDF with further information}.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

{Insert editor name}

Putting it all together

We hope you find these sample peer review email templates useful! Creating email templates for common correspondences is a great way to speed up peer review and also foster more standardized editorial workflows. These examples cover the most common uses for email templates that we’ve seen. Be sure to also meet with your editors to discuss where and how you may benefit from additional email templates for other common journal correspondences.

Markdown version of templates for Scholastica users:

We’ve also put Markdown versions of these email templates into a Google Doc for Scholastica users. Markdown is the formatting syntax Scholastica uses to ensure your text is always formatted as you intend it. You can easily copy and paste these templates right into your Scholastica account!