In the past month and a half, our Editors have read through hundreds of poetry and short story submissions, most of which have been declined. In this article, our Editor Sandra Reynolds shares the 9 worst mistakes that will immediately get your poetry/ short story submission trashed by any literary magazine to submit to.

  1. Spelling mistakes. This is one is really exasperating. So many people are too lazy to use a spellchecker to correct the most obvious mistakes that any word processing program (or even Chrome Browser) highlights in red.
    Really folks, do you think a literary magazine will publish poems or stories full of typos, or go fixing up your spelling errors for you?
  2. You might be used to using “shes”, “arent”, “you r” and lowercase “i” in your texting or chat messages, but that is an incorrect way to write these words. (If you can’t see what’s wrong with “shes” please do yourself a favor and buy a grammar book on Amazon or refer to free Grammar resources online.)
  3. Grammatical errors in short stories. Things like “The woman were talking to her son” is just plain terrible English.
    Grammarly.com is a free service and plugin for Word doc, which almost always corrects bad Grammatical mistakes.
  4. Copying other people’s work (and just rewriting it a tiny bit). Copying other people’s work is not okay, which includes just changing a few words and calling it your own work.
    We’ve even gotten a few submissions from poets who rewrote poems from other poets which we published in our last edition!
  5. Bad formatting. No line breaks. Some poetry submissions we receive have no line breaks, all the words and sentences are so stuck together that it’s one huge impossible-to-read gob of text.
  6. Bombing us with the same story or poem multiple times will not increase your chances of being read. On the contrary, poems or stories that were submitted more than once get trashed and the poet’s email gets blacklisted.
  7. Submitting multiple versions of the same poem with slight changes. ONLY send your poem once you’re happy with it and are ready for it to be published. If you’re not sure about what words to use, and keep changing it every ten minutes, then you’re not ready to submit your poem to a literary magazine. Sending in 10 versions of your poem in hope that we might like the 9th version, is an absolute turnoff.
    The same goes for a poem with questions like “(or maybe this line instead here?)”
    We’re not going to help you write your poem or decide what line should go where. You are the poet, that is your job.
  8. Sloppy bio. Receiving an “About the Poet” bio full of spelling mistakes is as much a turnoff as a poem full of them.
  9. Entering the wrong information in the wrong fields. Sticking your email in the first name field is just utter laziness and will only get your submission trashed.

We hope this post will help you.
Please do take note of these tips before you submit your poetry/ short stories to literary magazines.

Sandra Reynolds

Sandra Reynolds

Editor at NY Literary Magazine
Sandra earned her B.A. in English. She works part-time as a freelance writer and proofreader. Sandra was born in Massachusetts and currently resides in NYC with her fiance and their adorable pug.
Sandra Reynolds