Asia’s leading academic editing partner

Quick Takeaways:

  • A well-written cover letter is a valuable item in your submission package
  • Use our checklist as a guide to craft an effective cover letter, and
  • Download  our example cover letter and use it as a template

Your cover letter should not only summarise the key message of your submitted paper, but also convincingly “sell” your work and make the editor want to read the full paper and send it out to peer reviewers.

A good manuscript cover letter can make your submission stand out from the hundreds of submissions a journal may receive each week. A bad cover letter, on the other hand, may work against you by making a poor first impression, as explained by Dr. Rachel Baron, our Co-Chief Editor:

Although the transition to digital submission systems has decreased the significance of cover letters, many journals still require or recommend one. Nature, for example, states,

“Although optional, the cover letter is an excellent opportunity to briefly discuss the importance of the submitted work and why it is appropriate for the journal."

Whether your target journal requires a cover letter or you’ve decided to write one nevertheless, 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.

Quick Aside: Your target journal may set a 1-page limit for cover letters. Even if it doesn’t impose a page or word-count limit, cover letters are best kept to 1–2 pages long (with single-line spacing), so it’s important to make the optimum use of the limited space available.

A. Writing a Cover Letter for Your Manuscript

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. Avoid using a generic greeting, such as ‘Hello’, ‘Greetings’, or ‘To whom it may concern’.

Browse through your target journal’s website to find out the name of the journal editor, who usually carries the job title ‘Editor-in-Chief’, ‘Chief Editor’, ‘Editor’, ‘Executive Editor’, or ‘Managing Editor’. Journals with a broad scope may require you to name the senior or associate editor who handles a specific topic or article type. Typically, this information is listed on a page titled ‘Editorial Board’, ‘Journal Staff’, or something similar.

Dear Sir/Madam,

Hello,

Dear Dr Huang,

Dear Mr Horton:

Dear Ms Li

Dear Editor-in-Chief:            (use the editor’s title only if you can’t find the name of the editor)

The use of punctuation in your greeting (e.g., Dr. Huang vs Dr Huang), 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.

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

In your first paragraph, explain why you’re writing the letter. Remember to include not only the title of your manuscript but also the type of submission (e.g., original research article, review article, short communication, letter, case report). Use your target journal’s terminology for the name of the article type, to show attention to detail and that you are familiar with the journal’s style.

Also mention any special circumstances, including if you’ve had previous contact with the journal or if the manuscript is a resubmission. 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 submit my paper, “Title of your manuscript," to Journal Name as an Original Article.

On behalf of my co-authors, I am submitting the attached Brief Communication, ‘Title of your manuscript’, to Journal Name for fast-track consideration for the upcoming special issue on X.

My co-authors and I were pleased to receive your favourable response of 1 April 2021 to our pre-submission enquiry regarding a state-of-the-art review on X. Accordingly, we would like to submit the enclosed manuscript, ‘Title of your manuscript’, for consideration for publication as a Review Article in Journal Name.

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

Please consider my article for publication in your journal!

I’d be glad if you’d accept our paper for publication in Journal Name

Quick Aside: Do check that you’ve correctly named, and correctly spelt, your target journal (and its Editor-in-Chief), especially if you are submitting a rejected manuscript to a new journal.

Step 3: Summarise your study

The next paragraph is one of the most important parts of the cover letter. This is where you convince the editor that your manuscript is worth reviewing.

As tempting as it may be, don’t simply copy and paste the abstract of your manuscript, as the purposes and styles of an abstract and a cover letter are different. In your abstract, you summarise the manuscript using similar language and a similar order of information (introduction, methods, results, conclusion), so as to entice readers to read the full text.

In your cover letter, however, you summarise the manuscript but focus on the value of your contribution to the journal and discipline, so as to persuade the editor to read the abstract. Use plain, non-technical language because the editor may not be an expert in your particular field or topic, and avoid sounding too self-promotional, emotional, informal, or wordy.

Start with the most important message or feature of your manuscript. You can highlight the novelty of your study, innovation of your approach, or strength of your conclusions. Also explain how your manuscript matches the aims and scope of the target journal by stating how the practical or theoretical implications of your study are relevant to the specific readership.

Our 2-year trial of Z for X among Y shows that delaying Z administration to bedtime doubles its efficacy. This shift in timing is a simple, safe, and cost-effective way to increase drug efficacy and reduce X prevalence. The results are robust and applicable worldwide, given the strong study design (randomised cross-over trial of 1 million patients in 5 continents), and would be immediately useful for health care professionals who read Journal Name.

X is a horrendous affliction affecting half of Y. Currently, the most common treatment regimen for X is Z, but it is sadly only of 50% clinical efficaciousness. This milestone clinical investigation aimed to achieve a massive reduction in morbidity and mortality by effecting a great improvement in the effectiveness of Z as treatment of X among Y. Utilising a groundbreaking chronotherapeutic modality approach, we carefully designed a randomised cross-over trial…

Quick Aside: In 2-page cover letters, you could further justify your request for considering your paper for a certain article category or fast-track (expedited) publication, or include other relevant or insightful information. However, don’t request any waivers of submission or publication fees and don’t make any recommendations for or against potential reviewers unless allowed or required by the journal (see next section).

Step 4: Meet journal-specific requirements

Some journals may require you to provide specific information in the cover letter, the most common of which are related to:

  • Authorship
  • Funding, conflicts of interest
  • Ethical approval for experiments involving humans or animals
  • Clinical trial registration
  • Data availability or sharing
  • If all authors are willing to transfer copyright to the journal if the manuscript is accepted

Some journals ask you to state if your manuscript has been previously rejected by another journal, in which case past review reports should be enclosed, along with a point-by-point response. Some journals ask for:

  • Names and affiliations of all the authors of the submitted manuscript
  • Word count and number of tables and figures
  • Number and size of supplementary files
  • If the authors are willing to pay for colour-page charges
  • Suggestions of images for cover art

Journals may also require or recommend that you list potential impartial peer reviewers (with institutions and email addresses) and/or people who you think shouldn’t be asked to be reviewers, with reasons. You may be asked to nominate an associate editor from a list in the journal’s website who can act as the topic-specific handling/academic editor. You may also be asked to specify your choice of peer review model from a limited selection of available models (e.g., single- or double-anonymised, or open-identity review).

It’s therefore important to read the journal’s Instructions for Authors page.

For example, to meet the requirement of PLOS ONE to ‘list any opposed reviewers’, you could write:

We request that Prof X from the University of Y not be invited as a peer reviewer, because the journal uses double-anonymised review, but we recently sent her a non-anonymised draft of our manuscript for informal pre-submission review.

Please under no circumstances whatsoever, don’t send our paper to Prof X from the University of Y to review because she gave us a really negative review for another paper in another journal 3 years ago.

Quick Aside: Meeting all of the journal’s cover letter requirements, as well as submission requirements (e.g., authorship/contributorship and other declarations; copyright transfer form; if the journal requires that the manuscript be anonymized except the title page; or if figures and tables should be submitted in a separate file) will make your publication journey smoother by avoiding delays due to resubmission(s).

Step 5: Include standard declarations

In the concluding section of your cover letter, you should include certain standard declarations that nearly all journals expect. For example,

  • Statement clarifying that all of the authors agree with the decision to submit the manuscript to the target journal:
    • All authors have read and approved the manuscript and have agreed to submit it to Journal Name.
  • Statement of originality and exclusive submission to the journal:
    • The manuscript has not been previously published and is not being considered by another journal for publication.
  • Declarations associated with obtaining permission to use copyrighted material:
    • Our manuscript includes a figure published by Chan et al. (2020). We have obtained the necessary permission to reproduce the figure in our manuscript.
  • Who the Corresponding Author is:
    • Please note that I am the designated Corresponding Author for this submission.

Finally, professionally thank the editor for reviewing your submission, without being too flattering or sounding insincere.

We thank you for considering our submission and we look forward to hearing from you.

We are extremely indebted to you for graciously considering this humble manuscript for possible publication in your highly esteemed journal. Please reply soonest! Thanks!

Quick Aside: Check if your target journal requires you to declare and enclose copies of similar manuscripts in preparation, submitted to other journals, posted to a preprint site, or previously presented at a conference. Check if your target journal considers preprint posting as prior publication.

Step 6: Sign off professionally

End your cover letter by signing off professionally, and providing full contact details (e.g., mailing address, fax number, telephone number, email address). For example,

Yours sincerely,
[First and Last Name of Corresponding Author]
Job title
Department of _________
University of ________
University address
Fax:
Phone:
Email:

If you haven’t addressed the recipient by name but have instead used the editor’s title, replace ‘Yours sincerely’ with ‘Yours faithfully’.

Putting it all together: A quick checklist

Step Task Important Notes
1 Address the recipient professionally Instead of using a generic greeting, find and use the name of the journal editor.
2 State the manuscript essentials Introduce yourself (optional, as this information is evident from your signature/address block) and state the manuscript title and submission type.
3 Summarize your study, and explain how your manuscript matches the aims and scope of the article Do NOT repeat the abstract verbatim.
4 Meet journal-specific requirements Read the instructions for authors, as you may be required to provide specific information, such as reviewer recommendations.
5 Include standard declarations Statements regarding unanimous decision to submit to the journal, originality, copyright issues, corresponding author, etc. Thank the editor professionally.
6 Sign off professionally Provide your complete contact details.

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

Our downloadable draft manuscript submission cover letter, written in US style, deals with a fictitious case but is customisable and is annotated with helpful Comments. Please 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.

Author Profile

Mr Felix Sebastian
Operations Specialist
Felix is a BELS-certified academic editor with a decade of experience in editorial operations and management. He is passionate about science communication and takes pride in helping researchers disseminate their work. Felix has been with AsiaEdit since May 2020.

Apart from the author, Dr. Rachel Baron (Co-Chief Editor, AsiaEdit) and Dr. Trevor Lane (Education Consultant, AsiaEdit) made significant contributions to this blog post

Add Your Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *