You’ve submitted your manuscript to a medical journal and you’re anxiously awaiting a decision. The editor emails you with a request to “Revise and Resubmit” (yaaay!), with what they consider “major” revisions (not so great, but still good!). And the journal’s deadline for resubmission is an automatically generated 3 weeks from the notification date – landing squarely on December 31 (boooo!), in the midst or end of the holidays, when you had planned to be away, or taking some well-deserved time off with family. Or the deadline is one month out, and there’s no way you’ll be able to complete the additional analyses, generate new figures, and revise the manuscript in that short a time frame.

While every reasonable attempt should be made to revise the manuscript and submit it by the deadline provided by the journal, sometimes it’s simply not feasible or do-able to meet that deadline. In case you weren’t aware – it is okay to request an extension on the submission deadline from the journal.

Yes, that’s right, one can ask for an extension. This shouldn’t be done routinely, but it is certainly a valid request in the circumstances I’ve described above. Or when the deadline falls in the middle of or immediately around a major industry conference that most authors will be attending and presenting at. Or when there are a dozen coauthors across 2 continents, who all need to provide approval, and several have travel or holidays planned close to the submission deadline.

How to go about requesting an extension? On many online manuscript submission sites, once the corresponding author has logged in, there’s actually a dedicated button for sending an email to the journal/editor. When you click on it, an email template is automatically generated. In some cases, the template even has a drop-down subject line list that includes an option for “requesting an extension” (how thoughtful!).

If this option does not exist within the manuscript submission site, then you would go to the decision email you received, hit ‘reply’, and send an email through your own program to the editor. Include “request for extension” and the manuscript reference number in the subject line of your email.

How to word this request? You’ll want to be tactful, respectful, and provide a sound reason for requesting the delay. Also convey that you’re very interested in making the revisions and are keen to have your paper re-considered for publication in the journal. Always remember, making the revisions and resubmitting the manuscript does not guarantee acceptance and publication. There may be further revision requests to address.

Also, always suggest a new deadline that you are confident you can meet. Ideally, it should not be more than four weeks later than the original resubmission deadline provided by the journal.

Here’s a sample request for extension that incorporates these suggestions:

Subject: Request for Extension for Manuscript #12345-R1

Dear Editorial Department,

RE: Manuscript #12345-R1, “Title Goes Here”

Thank you for your offer to revise and resubmit this manuscript for consideration for publication in <journal name>. We appreciate the detailed <thoughtful, insightful> comments made by the reviewers. We are currently working to thoroughly address their comments, and we have asked our statistician to assist with the requested revisions.

We note the deadline for resubmission is <date>. To fully address all of the reviewers’ comments in a manner that we hope will be satisfactory to them, and in light of travel commitments for some of the authors and the upcoming holidays <OR: and in light of most of the authors attending and presenting at the XY conference in City on Dates>, we would respectfully request a modest extension of the submission deadline to <suggest a date that is 2-4 weeks later>.

We hope this will be feasible, and we thank you for your consideration of this request.

Corresponding Author

Ideally, a request for an extension should be made as early as possible in the revision process, i.e., within a week of receiving the decision. However, sometimes you’ll have every intent of resubmitting within the deadline, but then circumstances beyond your control will delay the revision process and seriously compromise your ability to meet the deadline. Don’t wait to the last 48 hours – try to send in your request at least one week ahead of the deadline, and provide some kind of explanation about these circumstances that have delayed the revision.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the request for an extension of the resubmission deadline must come from the corresponding author.

I’d appreciate your feedback on this week’s tip and welcome suggestions for future weekly writing tips.