What do editors do? Editing British Journal of Midwifery (BJM) involves a great deal: seeing articles safely through peer review; reading each piece for errors and clarity (each article will be read at least five times before it is printed) and organising them all into a varied, interesting issue. On top of that, it means designing the cover, finding new voices to publish and managing social media. Of course, the issue would not be possible without the members of the Editorial Board (Newman, 2019), the peer reviewers (Williams, 2019) and the authors.
As an author, there is much you can do to ensure your article is more likely to be accepted in your journal of choice. If you have an idea for a piece, you can assess its suitability for a journal by reading what it publishes already. BJM, for example, publishes research, clinical articles and articles on professional and policy developments relevant to midwifery, but other publications have a different focus. When reading the journal, ask yourself the most obvious questions: who writes the articles? Who are they written for? How long are they? How technical? Do they use figures and pictures, or mostly text?
This could sound obvious to some or daunting to others, but you may be surprised at how many frequently asked questions could be answered by a look in the journal. This will also help you decide what sort of article (clinical practice, research, comment) you wish to write, and will help you alter your style to match.
You can also read the journal's author guidelines, which are available online or on request from the editor. Check what the journal prefers in terms of author information, referencing style, abbreviations, summary points and other items on the page. Tailor your work as much as possible—you'll only be asked to do this later if not.
Part of an editor's job is to ensure text conforms to house style—the guidelines that help to ensure consistency across the journal—but also to check for clarity. Writing style is often a worry for authors, but at BJM the aim is for all articles to be as accessible to a student midwife on their first day as an experienced practitioner at the end of their career. The research may be complicated, or the skill technically advanced, but its complexity will never be appreciated by readers if the language is so convoluted that it becomes incomprehensible. The most successful articles are the ones that are clear and informative—the ones that call a spade a spade, not ‘a manually operated soil manipulation device’. The same also goes for jargon, which might sound simple and catchy, but can quickly lose all meaning.
Submitting an article for publication takes confidence, and doing your research (and tailoring your writing, if necessary) can help you feel more certain that your article is something that will interest, educate and inform the journal's readers. However, as with many things, the best advice is the simplest: if in doubt, ask. After all, supporting authors is an editor's most important job.