Don't let English affect the chances of publishing your research!

How to Write a Response Letter for Journal Resubmission

28 March 2022

Quick Takeaways:

  • A well-written rebuttal or response letter is a necessity when submitting a revised manuscript
  • Use our checklist as a guide to craft an effective rebuttal letter, and
  • Download our example rebuttal letter and use it as a template

The English language has a rich history of borrowing words from other languages, especially from Latin. Latin abbreviations such as ‘a.m.’, ‘p.m.’ and ‘CV’ have become part of our everyday vocabulary. Such abbreviations are also frequently used in academic writing, from the ‘Ph.D.’ in the affiliation section to the ‘i.e.’, ‘e.g.’, ‘et al.’, and ‘QED’ in the rest of the paper.

This guide explains when and how to correctly use ‘et al.’ in a research paper.

If a journal editor sends you a decision letter asking you to revise and resubmit your manuscript according to peer reviewers’ comments, you’ll need to prepare a rebuttal letter, or response letter, to accompany your resubmission.

The rebuttal letter serves two purposes. First, it’s a cover letter announcing that your revised manuscript has been improved and is ready for reconsideration. Second, it explains how the manuscript has been revised, by way of point-by-point responses to each of the comments made by each of the peer reviewers.

Your letter should convince the editor to accept your manuscript for publication, possibly without another round of review, so it’s worth taking the time to write an effective and compelling letter. In this guide, we’ll show you how you can do so in six simple steps.

A. Writing a Rebuttal Letter for Your Revised Manuscript

Step 1: Address the recipient professionally
Step 2: State the manuscript essentials (e.g., title & manuscript number)
Step 3: Thank the editor and peer reviewers
Step 4: Summarise how you addressed the reviewers’ comments
Step 5: Provide your detailed point-by-point responses to the reviewers
Step 6: Conclude and sign off professionally
Putting it all together: A quick checklist

B. Example Rebuttal Letter [Free Download]

QUICK ASIDE

The journal may ask you to follow specific instructions when resubmitting your manuscript, such as using special formats or forms to make point-by-point responses to the reviewers, how to indicate edits in the manuscript, and how to upload your responses and revised file(s).

 

A. Writing a Response Letter for Your Revised Manuscript

Note: Steps 1 and 2 below are similar to the first two steps in our guide on writing a cover letter for journal submission.

 
Step 1: Address the recipient professionally

It’s important that you greet the right person as the letter’s recipient, and that you do so professionally. Refer to the journal’s decision letter asking you to revise your manuscript, and reply to the person who signed the correspondence. In most cases, it will be the journal’s ‘Editor-in-Chief’, ‘Chief Editor’, or ‘Editor’, or a representative such as the ‘Executive Editor’ or ‘Managing Editor’, or a ‘Handling Editor’, ‘Senior Editor’, ‘Associate Editor’, ‘Assistant Editor’, or ‘Academic Editor’.

However, use the greeting ‘Dear’ followed by the person’s prefix (courtesy) title and surname (family name) or full name if the surname is unclear, rather than the stated job name. If the prefix title is not given in the journal’s letter, you may need to check information that is listed in the journal’s website on a page titled ‘Editorial Board’, ‘Journal Staff’, or something similar.

Dear Editor,

Dear Andrew Smith:

Dear Andrew

Dear Dr. Smith,

Dear Dr. Andrew Smith,

Dear Ms Li

Dear Prof Saito:

The use of punctuation in your greeting (e.g., Dr. Smith: vs Dr Smith), as well as in the rest of the letter, will vary depending on whether you’re following US, UK, or other convention. We recommend that you pick one style and follow it throughout the letter.

Contact details go before the greeting. The resubmission date can go before or after the recipient’s contact information.

Your institution’s name

Street address

City, Postcode/ZIP Code

Country/region

 

Editor-in-Chief’s full name with prefix title

Editor-in-Chief

Journal name

 

10 January 2022

 

Dear (editor’s surname with prefix title):

If the journal uses ‘open identity’ review, where the peer reviewers are named, you may be required to submit a personalised rebuttal letter to each reviewer. In this case, greet each reviewer by using the surname and prefix title stated in the journal’s letter, and use the following as the recipient’s contact information before the greeting:

Reviewer’s full name with prefix title

Reviewer (add a number if provided, e.g., Reviewer #1)

Journal name

 

10 January 2022

 

Dear (reviewer’s surname with prefix title):

 
Step 2: State the manuscript essentials (e.g., title & manuscript number)

In your first paragraph, explain why you’re writing the letter. Remember to include not only the original title of your manuscript but also the assigned manuscript tracking number. Explain if you’ve edited the title in your revised manuscript. Don’t forget to name the journal and to sound polite and professional.

Use formal English and consistent punctuation and spelling style (e.g., US, as in the first example below, or UK, as in the second and third examples) throughout the letter.

I am writing to resubmit my paper, “Title of your manuscript,” Manuscript #1234, to Journal Name. Please note that the revised title is “Revised title of your manuscript.”

 

On behalf of my co-authors, I am resubmitting the attached manuscript, originally titled ‘Title of your manuscript’ and now retitled ‘Revised title of your manuscript’ (Manuscript #1234), for reconsideration for publication in Journal Name.

 

My co-authors and I were pleased to receive your response of 15 December 2021 inviting us to revise and resubmit our manuscript. Accordingly, we would like to submit the enclosed revised paper, ‘Title of your manuscript’, Manuscript #2345, for reconsideration for publication in Journal Name.

Omitting any of the key pieces of information (i.e., manuscript title, manuscript number, journal name) or sounding informal, desperate, or too pushy can result in a poor opening.

Please reconsider my article for publication in your journal!

 

I’d be deeply humbled if you’d accept our revised paper for publication in your highly esteemed journal.

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If your rebuttal letter is an email, the subject line should say ‘Resubmission of’ followed by the manuscript tracking code and the original title. If it is a PDF that goes beyond a page, use the manuscript tracking code, original title, and author surname (with et al. if there are other authors) as a page header, and number the pages.

 
Step 3: Thank the editor and peer reviewers

The next paragraph shows that you appreciate the effort of the editor and reviewers in trying to improve your paper. It also shows that you respect the value of the peer review process as the main quality control system of the journal and of scholarly publication in general.

Even if you may have disagreed with some of the reviewers’ comments, thank the editor and reviewers. Be concise and sound sincere and appreciative, without sounding too emotional or gushy:

[Writing to an editor] I/We thank you and the reviewers for your time and effort in reviewing my/our manuscript. The feedback has been invaluable in improving the content and presentation of the paper.

 

[Writing to a reviewer] I/We would like to thank you for providing your constructive and detailed review comments on my/our manuscript. The recommendations and advice have helped me/us to significantly enhance the quality of the manuscript.

 

We are deeply grateful and forever humbly indebted to you from the bottom of our hearts for furnishing us with such insightful and truly wise feedback on our paper. Without such selfless, magnanimous, in-depth review comments, we wouldn’t have possibly been able to subsequently revise our manuscript to perfection.

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If the editor asked for a specific major issue to be addressed, whether it was a request highlighting a reviewer’s comment or an additional request, make sure this is specifically mentioned here.

In particular, in accordance with your request, the word count and number of references have been reduced and the manuscript has been reformatted as a Brief Communication.

 

We would like to point out that, as you and both reviewers requested, we have had the whole manuscript professionally edited (please see the enclosed editing certificate) and have replaced the figures with high-resolution ones.

 
 
Step 4: Summarise how you addressed the reviewers’ comments

Next, say how you used the peer reviewers’ comments to revise your manuscript, and if you followed every recommendation. Refer to how you will present your replies to the reviewers in your point-by-point responses and in the revised manuscript.

  • Responses to the reviewers within the rebuttal letter or in a separate document, with your responses clearly indicated (e.g., in italics or a different text colour)
  • Revised manuscript showing tracked editing changes, or highlighted or coloured text that has been edited
  • ‘Clean’ version of revised manuscript (without tracked changes)

[Writing to an editor] I/We have revised my/our manuscript according to most (or: the majority /nearly all / all) of the reviewers’ comments. The changes are highlighted in yellow in the attached manuscript, and my/our point-by-point responses are given in italics below (or: are given in italics in the attached file named ‘P-B-P Response – MS1234’). A clean file of the manuscript is also attached.

 

[Writing to a reviewer] I/We have revised my/our manuscript according to all of your comments, as explained after the word ‘Response:’ in the point-by-point responses below. Edited text in the attached revised manuscript is visible as tracked changes under the All Markup mode of Microsoft Word.

 

State if you made any other changes that were not requested by the editor or reviewers. You can simply say that the text has been corrected after proofreading, as indicated in the tracked version. However, any major revisions that were not requested by the editor or reviewers need to be fully explained and highlighted, because they may require a new round of peer review.

The tracked/highlighted manuscript also shows minor corrections and renumbered references and figures after proofreading. In addition, please note that Figures 2 to 5 have been replaced with higher-magnification photographs showing the features of interest in greater detail.

 

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Refer to the reviewers as ‘you/your’ only if you are addressing each reviewer directly in separate rebuttal letters. If your letter is addressed to the journal editor, refer to the reviewers in the third person as ‘the reviewer’ or ‘the reviewers’ and as the pronouns ‘they/them/their’, regardless of whether you mean one or more of the reviewers.

 
Step 5: Provide your detailed point-by-point responses to the reviewers

You need to give details on how and where you addressed each comment, or why you chose not to address a certain comment. If including your responses within the rebuttal letter to the editor, prepare replies to each reviewer in turn (labelled ‘Responses to Reviewer 1’, ‘Responses to Reviewer 2’, etc). If you are required to address separate rebuttal letters to each named reviewer, just call this section ‘Responses to Comments’.

For each reviewer, copy/paste each comment, unedited. Then reply to each one in turn, citing the corresponding change in the manuscript by referring to page, paragraph, and line number (or just line number, if you’re using continuous line numbering). Number the comments and make sure you reply to each point if a comment contains several points.

For the order of comments, use the structure adopted by each reviewer, such as:

  • Major Comments followed by Minor Comments
  • Comments ordered by arabic or roman numerals or line number
  • Comments divided into Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion, and References

For the format, follow the journal’s Instructions for Authors or any specific instructions given in the decision letter. The journal may ask you to format your response in the rebuttal letter as one list, or as a table with columns headed with ‘Reviewer’s comment’, ‘Author’s response’, and ‘Location in manuscript’. Or you may need to attach one document replying to the reviewers in sequence or a separate document per reviewer, again as a list or in a table.

You’ll need to reply to praise as well as criticism. If the comment was ‘The authors have been thorough in explaining X and presenting Y’, respond by writing ‘Response: We thank the reviewer for their positive comment’. There is no need to thank the reviewer in every response. A direct reply to a simple request is acceptable. For example, if the reviewer complains that the legends are too brief, you could say: ‘Response: We have revised all legends by giving specific test conditions and key statistical results’.

If a specific sentence or phrase is queried by the reviewer, consider including the revised sentence (or an example) in your reply to show you’ve incorporated the change. For example, ‘Response: The phrasing “Based on X,…” has now been corrected throughout the text, e.g., page 12, paragraph 3, line 10: “On the basis of these results, we suggest that drafts be proofread to check for awkward phrasing.”’.

Remember to be formal, courteous, and respectful in your replies and explain with a reason and evidence if you disagree with any points. Refer to the reviewer as ‘you’ only if you’re asked to address the rebuttal letter to the reviewer. Don’t mention the other reviewer(s) or the editor in your replies, unless:

  1. you’re instructed to refer to other reviewer responses rather than to repeat responses,
  2. the editor noted that the reviewers contradicted each other and gave you permission to ignore a point, or
  3. you are deferring something to the editor

For example, if the reviewer comment was ‘The analysis of X seems to be directly repeated on page 10, and an explanation is missing for why X analysis was used’, possible replies to the editor are as follows:

 

[If agreeing] Response: We thank the reviewer for pointing out these errors. The reviewer is correct and we apologise for these oversights. We have now deleted the repeated text in the first five sentences of paragraph 1 on page 10 and justified the use of X analysis in paragraph 2 on page 5.

 

[If agreeing] Response: Thanks for your wonderful astute observation; the other reviewer said exactly the same thing as you! See our response to Reviewer 2.

 

[If disagreeing] Response: Although the analysis on page 10 may seem repeated, it is performed on the parsimonious model as opposed to the initial full model. We have now clarified the difference in paragraph 1 on page 10. However, the use of X analysis per se had already been briefly explained in paragraph 2 on page 5 with a citation (Ref 10) and is a standard approach in this study type. The revised paper has reached the article word limit, but we can elaborate on why we selected the method in preference to other methods if the editor allows 150 more words for this proposed additional text:…

 

[If disagreeing] Response: You clearly didn’t read the text properly: page 10 is about a different subanalysis so it’s NOT repeated! The other reviewer didn’t have a problem and must’ve been a more careful reviewer than you. What’s more, the method is obviously referred to in reference 10 and, anyway, we’ve run out of space to say any more!

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If the editor also included a list of requested changes, treat this like another set of reviewer comments that needs full responses, and reply to these first, under the title ‘Responses to the Editor’.

 
Step 6: Conclude and sign off professionally

End your response letter by professionally thanking the editor for re-reviewing your submission, without being too flattering or sounding insincere. You can also confirm that all authors agree with the changes made to the manuscript.

All authors have read and approved the revised manuscript. We hope that our resubmission is now suitable for inclusion in Journal Name and we look forward to hearing from you.

 

My co-authors and I are extremely indebted to you for graciously reconsidering this humble manuscript for immediate publication in your highly respected and prestigious journal. Please reply at your earliest convenience! Thanks!!!

Your sign-off should provide full contact details (e.g., mailing address, fax number, telephone number, and email address). For example,

Yours sincerely,

[First and Last Name of Corresponding Author]

Job title

Department of _________

University of ________

University address

Fax:

Phone:

Email:

 
Putting it all together: A quick checklist

StepTaskImportant Notes 
1Address the recipient professionallyUse the name and prefix title of the journal editor as stated in the decision letter.
2State the manuscript essentialsState the original manuscript title and the assigned manuscript tracking number, and say if the title has been revised.
3Thank the editor and peer reviewersThank the editor and reviewers sincerely, even if you disagree with any of their comments. State how you responded to any major comments from the editor.
4Summarise how you addressed the reviewers’ commentsSay how you have indicated changes in the manuscript and how you will present replies to the reviewers’ comments.
5Provide your detailed point-by-point responses to the reviewersRespond clearly and concisely to every comment of each reviewer. Read the Instructions for authors, as you may be required to provide point-by-point responses within the rebuttal letter or in a separate document or form.
6Conclude and sign off professionallyThank the editor again. Provide your complete contact details.

If you’ve followed our guidelines above, you should have an effective rebuttal letter. Good luck with your resubmission! Reach out to cs@asiaedit.com should you require any editorial assistance.

 
B. Example Rebuttal Letter [Free Download]

Our downloadable draft manuscript resubmission response letter, written in US style, presents a fictitious case but is customisable and is annotated with helpful comments. Edit or replace text as needed and delete all comments when finalising your letter. Remember to use non-technical, jargon-free but formal language, and avoid abbreviations, or spell them out at first mention.

Our latest online workshop built on the success of face-to-face workshops we developed specifically for local universities. Over 30 faculty members joined the session, presented by our Chief Operating Officer, Mr Nick Case, to learn from our case studies on editing research proposals.

The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out.

QUICK ASIDE

Wondering why some abbreviations such as ‘et al.’ and ‘e.g.’ use periods, whereas others such as CV and AD don’t? Periods are typically used if the abbreviations include lowercase or mixed-case letters. They’re usually not used with abbreviations containing only uppercase letters.

Unusual Scenarios

Our latest online workshop built on the success of face-to-face workshops we developed specifically for local universities. Over 30 faculty members joined the session, presented by our Chief Operating Officer, Mr Nick Case, to learn from our case studies on editing research proposals.

The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out. The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out. The response to our workshop, which included a constructive and insightful Q&A session, was very positive.Drawing on our extensive experience working with hundreds of Hong Kong researchers targeting the GRF and ECS every year, we used examples of poor and subsequently improved proposals to show the attendees how they can make their applications stand out.

QUICK ASIDE

Wondering why some abbreviations such as ‘et al.’ and ‘e.g.’ use periods, whereas others such as CV and AD don’t? Periods are typically used if the abbreviations include lowercase or mixed-case letters. They’re usually not used with abbreviations containing only uppercase letters.

Author Resources

Check out AsiaEdit’s professional research grant proposal editing service.
Read more about our training services covering all aspects of academic writing tailored for local institutions.

More resources on research grant proposal writing: On-demand Webinars
Preparing an effective research proposal – Your guide to successful funding application
Preparing an effective research proposal – Your guide to successful funding application (Part 2)

About the Author

Dr Trevor Lane

Education Consultant, AsiaEdit

Dr Trevor Lane is a publishing and education consultant and an elected Council Member of the Committee on Publication Ethics. He has 25 years of experience helping authors publish their research in peer-reviewed academic journals.

Edited by Felix Sebastian

NOTES

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