1. Fulton, Janet S. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, ANEF, FAAN

Article Content

It's summer in the northern hemisphere when many of us take a break from routine and add some leisure time to the calendar. The to-do list often includes visiting family, catching up on reading, tidying up the home and office, and, hopefully, finishing that manuscript for submission to the journal. As a helpful editor, here are some tips for moving the manuscript forward.


A blank page is intimidating to most intended authors. If the problem is topic selection, consider your existing work such as an abstract presented at a conference or a report presented to an administrator. An abstract is a great starting place because it is a rough topical outline for a manuscript. Clinical project reports and executive summaries are also great for getting started, as are lecture notes and PowerPoint presentations.


Begin by organizing the topic with major headings. Remember it's a work in progress; the outline may change as the work evolves. With the major headings drafted, fill in the content for each section. Use short phrases and key words to organize the logical flow of the content. When a clear shape of manuscript emerges, check for a match with the journal. The purpose and objectives of this journal are published on the masthead page. It's important that the topic fit the journal lest a good manuscript be rejected based on topic alone. Download the information for authors. In a report of the top 40 issues editors have with authors, not following author guidelines was no. 1.1 The guidelines specify the page limits, table and figure requirements, and other requirements such as number of references permitted. Avoid the temptation to create something really cleaver that is outside the guidelines as it may not be possible for the publisher to handle the document. However, the digital world is changing publication possibilities, and many journals, including this one, can handle digital content in the online pages. If in doubt, contact the editor for guidance. As a general rule, develop the manuscript within the author guidelines.


Set deadlines. Put writing time on the schedule and honor it. Select a submission target date and work backward to appropriate enough writing time to meet the deadline. Make the writing schedule visible in a personal calendar.


Now begin writing in earnest. Turn phrases into sentences, sentences into paragraphs. Don't be distracted by gaps; if more content is needed in an area, type a note saying "add more about this," highlight the note, and keep the flow going. Return later and develop the gap areas. Likewise, don't abandon the writing flow to look up references. Simply make a note that a reference is needed and fill it in later. And don't edit the working document. Spending time fussing over word choices or punctuation is sidetracking. That perfect sentence may not make the final cut, so why spend time on it early in the process.


As it inevitably happens, some really great content-a perfect paragraph-will emerge, but alas, it doesn't fit the topic well or the logical flow of the work. For those who have difficulty deleting that really great, out-of-place content, I recommend a separate file. Cut and paste the content into the file for later review. It's moved, but not gone, preserving the flow of the manuscript and author peace of mind. Go back later and develop the idea into a separate work. Saver1 noted that more words don't mean more importance or clarity. If the manuscript exceeds the stated page limit, chances are the topic needs to be narrowed.


Once the manuscript is in tight draft, ask a couple of colleagues to serve as reviewers. One reviewer should be a content expert able to provide feedback on the accuracy of the work, whereas the other reviewer, not a content expert, will review for logical flow and clarity. Use the feedback to do some final editing. Tweak the sentences to remove all unnecessary words. A simple, direct writing style is easiest to read. Never use a fancy word when a plain one will do. As a last check, read the manuscript out loud. The ear will hear what the eye misses. Make sure the manuscript is formatted correctly according to the journal style. Although tedious, it's a mark of scholarship.


Submit! The last step is to submit the manuscript. Register with the online manuscript management service, which then generates an account for submission. Follow the directions, and upload the various manuscript documents (cover letter, title page, text, figures/diagrams) as indicated by the system program. The system assembles the total manuscript in a manner that creates a blind copy for reviewers. Following the author guidelines and submission directions will avoid a reviewer document with author-identifying information. Be sure to read and sign the copyright transfer document. Manuscripts cannot be sent for review without copyright transfer.


Remember that the review and publication process takes time. Saver1 noted that sometimes manuscripts are published quickly, within 1 to 3 months, but it can also take up to 2 years from initial submission to final publication.


Start now! Summer is upon us. The journal looks forward to receiving your manuscripts in September. And to our colleagues in the southern hemisphere, the journal looks forward to receiving your manuscripts in April!




1. Saver C. 40 Things editors won't tell you (but you need to know). Nurse Author Editor. 2016;26(1):6. [Context Link]