Reviewer comments are the most fundamental component of the peer-review process for publishing scientific manuscripts. They are also the most anxiety-laden, occasionally joyful, hopefully constructive, but often disheartening, painful, and sometimes cruel and soul-crushing element. Good reviewers know how to provide useful, constructive comments that will legitimately improve the paper in an objective, gentle manner. But some reviewers are unduly callous with their comments – which can’t even be considered criticisms, because they don’t provide any questions or suggestions to actually improve the paper.

Several online sites and accounts provide an outlet for people to share some of the harshest reviewer comments they’ve received. If you’ve ever been completely deflated to the point of tears by a review of one of your submissions, take solace in some of these wicked reviewer comments:

It is very lengthy, full of mistakes, irrelevant information, and completely fails to attract readers. 

Did you have a seizure while writing this sentence? Because I feel like I had one while reading it.

This [sentence] construction should be reserved for police procedurals and bad Mafia movies.

Various statements seem to be sweeping and inaccurate generalizations with little robust justification.

By now, there are over 1,000 [articles on this topic], but these authors have not read a single one.

This is expected to be a research article that presents scientific findings, not science fiction.

This work is antithetical to the spirit of [XYZ] research and will impede potentially important developments.

This paper makes no contribution.

But fundamentally, why did you bother?

The figures presented are absolutely useless in their current form.

The authors report results from pages 16-26. This section reflects what I would brutally call ‘death by figures.’

The manuscript is full of severe major inaccuracies and is not suitable for a scientific journal.

The work is trivial, and there is no novelty in the work, the approach or the results. The authors do not solve anything and the implications in this context are quite possibly irrelevant.

The rest of the Introduction is just as badly done as the first paragraph so I will not continue.

There is hardly any paragraph (even in the abstract) that is not messy, disorganized, confusing, that does not contain mistakes (some are quite embarrassing), redundancies, abusive shortcuts or discussions that sound absurd.

Right now, there is zero rationale for the study and zero reason to read the study.

The authors should discard the data and collect it again properly.

Limited scholarship, flawed design, and faulty logic engender no enthusiasm whatsoever.

That’s not how science is done.

The lead author of this study has an apparent history of convincing otherwise well-respected scholars to be unwitting co-authors on his poor excuses for academic papers.

The authors conclusions not only contradict their own data but also the laws of thermodynamics.

Overall, I think this manuscript is a waste of time.

the sthanthard of writing is impercable

The biggest problem with this manuscript, which has nearly sucked the will to live out of me, is the terrible writing style.

The paper descends into nonsense, never to return, on line 44.

I would very much have liked to read the article promised in the abstract.

It is at best of little value and, in the worst case, irrelevant and offensive.

Yes measurements were made, but why, besides a teaching exercise, remains obscure.

What, then, is the point of this manuscript, which presents no truly new data, methods, conclusions, or arguments? I would venture that it has no raison d’etre, and is neither novel nor helpful.


And here are what I consider the Top 10 Worst Reviewer Comments:

10. Studies undertaken in such a manner as presented here degrade all science by giving the semblance of legitimacy to illegitimate work.

9. The author should abandon the premise that his work can be considered research.

8. I urge the authors to not publish this article anywhere, as it will impede the progress of scientific understanding.

7. I am afraid this manuscript may contribute not so much towards the field’s advancement as much as toward its eventual demise.

6. The English language ranks this manuscript among the top 5 worst manuscripts I have ever reviewed.

5. This is clearly a submission that needs to be shredded, burned, and the ashes buried in multiple locations.

4. Publication of this paper will not advance our knowledge in any shape or form, it will just result in other researchers pointing out how bad this study actually is.

3. I have rarely read a more blown-up and annoying paper in the last couple of years than this hot-air balloon manuscript.

2. There are two possibilities. 1) This paper is part of an experiment to try and determine how badly a research paper can be but still be accepted, or 2) The authors are actual fools and it would be in the editor’s best interest to ban them from submitting to the journal in the future.

 And the Number One Worst Reviewer Comment Ever:

  1. If the editor somehow decides to accept this paper, they risk permanently destroying the credibility of this journal and its entire editorial board. As well as every author who has published in this journal or will do so in the future.

Feeling better? Maybe those reviewer comments you received weren’t nearly so bad after all? I hope so! And if they were, commiserate with a friend, have a rich dessert or a strong beverage, and put the paper aside for a few days. When you’re ready, you can tweak the paper and submit it to a different journal.

I welcome your comments and feedback, and I look forward to receiving topic suggestions for future weekly writing tips.