Grammar and Structure and Title, Oh My!

It has been a while since I wrote the first two blogs on the topic of reviews, but it is time for the next instalment. The editor has decided to send your paper for review, has de-identified it, and found a minimum of two people ready to review. Each reviewer is sent a review form to complete.

So, what is on the form?

General sections

The first part of the form does not look too daunting. The first section is headed "General Comments". The reviewers are asked to briefly provide positive areas and areas for improvement. Why brief? Because there are separate sections later in the form on all aspects of your paper! The second section is "Recommendations for Improvement", but can be left blank if these are covered in the following sections. As an author, it is always tempting to look at these first two sections and feel quite satisfied that the paper has been well received because these areas may only have minimal comments. It is the rest of the form that goes into detail! In this blog, I am only going to discuss the next two, of the following 11 areas of the form. Yes, there are another 11 sections!


Once we enter the realm of the nitty gritty sections, the first is headed "Readability". Here, the reviewer asks themselves:

  • was the paper easy to understand?
  • did it flow properly?
  • was it well written?

The actual form looks like this:

Readability: Acceptable language and grammar: Yes ☐ No ☐
Acceptable acronyms: Yes ☐ No ☐ N/A ☐
Cohesive paragraphs: Yes ☐ No ☐
Appropriate overall structure: Yes ☐ No ☐
Comment (if applicable):

Think about these areas before you submit. Is your grammar correct? It is easy to say "Of course it is", but have you checked it several times? Have you had someone else proofread it as well, or have you relied on your software? Have you ensured that you have used consistent spelling throughout? Have you remembered that "data" is always plural and thus needs the plural form of the verb? Have you used "the", "a" and "an" (the definite and indefinite articles) appropriately and everywhere necessary? If you have opened a statement or quote with inverted commas (" . . .") have you remembered to close them at the appropriate place? Have you used apostrophes correctly? The world of grammar is probably finite but seems infinite. You need to check, check, and check again.

Title and Keywords

Sighing woefully on her balcony, Juliet bemoans "What’s in a name?", and you may well ask "What’s in a title"? Actually, quite a lot. A title needs to fulfil many things, but also be succinct. Our guidelines state that titles should not be longer than 12 words. The longest that I have received was 35 words: that is a sentence, if not two!

Why do we suggest a title length? We do not do it just to make your life difficult. Search engines typically use a certain length and the general rule of thumb is that titles between 60 and 70 characters will not be truncated meaning that anyone searching will see your full title if it is about that length. You need to remember that a space actually counts as a character. If you do the math, 71 characters is 12 five letter words with 11 spaces! The longer your words, the fewer words you should include.

Again, the actual form looks like this:

Title: Is the title clear and appropriate?: Yes ☐ No ☐
Are the keywords appropriate?: Yes ☐ No ☐
Comment (if applicable):

Remember that you are looking for clarity: the reviewer needs to know what your paper is about just from reading your title.

Keywords are also important. Again, you are trying to ensure that your paper is picked up by search engines. Think about how you search? What words best describe your paper and will appeal to all the audiences whom you are addressing? You are limited to 6 keywords: think carefully about which are the best. What is the topic? Is there an overarching theme? Who is your main audience?

Several publishers offer advice on keywords. Here is just one which you may care to read: Please note that there are lots of others and I am not suggesting this is necessarily the best.

Next time? The Abstract and Introduction!

In the next blog I will share the next couple of sections of the reviewer form. Meanwhile, all stay well and we continue to look forward to your papers,


Dr Yvonne Masters
IAFOR Journal of Education

JoE is an internationally reviewed and editorially independent interdisciplinary journal associated with IAFOR’s international conferences on education. Like all IAFOR publications, it is freely available to read online, and is free of publication fees for authors. The first issue was published in May 2013, and the journal will publish four issues in 2020.

Indexed in: Scopus, DOAJ, ERIC, EBSCO Discovery Service, MIAR, TROVE, Scilit, SHERPA/RoMEO, WorldCat, Google Scholar, and Ulrich's™. DOIs are assigned to each published issue and article via Crossref.


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