Now it comes to it…I don’t feel like parting with it all, It’s mine it came to me! Okay, I may not be Bilbo Baggins trying to give up the ring, but sending off a manuscript can still be a little unnerving. Did I dot every ” i” and cross every “t”? Is the cover letter convincing enough? Actually until I attended the AAAS seminar on “How to publish in Science” I never poured over the cover letter I sent with my manuscripts like I did the manuscripts themselves. Pamela Hines, Senior Editor at Science, had some advice for writing cover letters accompanying submissions, and now my attitude has changed.
According to Dr, Hines, the cover letter must convey the following:
- Why is this novel?
- Is it a big increment over previous work?
- Why is it of general interest?
- (Plus reviewer exclusions and suggested reviewers).
These elements can easily be adapted to any journal, but as it is for Science, the need to include them becomes acute. Dr. Hines also gave some interesting advice. She said that when writing, think like your family, a funding agency representative, the reviwers, and the editor. That is, write to educated but not expert readers, make your argument quickly and clearly, know that they want to find good papers, and ask your self how you’d react to reading your paper for the first time. Ultimately, Dr, Hines likens the cover letter to an “elevator speech”.
Next Time: General writing advice from Science , part 4 of a 4 part series on writing for Science Magazine.