Every journal basically has two. They are not uniform and they are very likely to be subtle.
Standard Rejection Letter
The first is the standard rejection. Here is an example from The Southampton Review, but there are more standard rejection examples below.
Dear Kenneth Noisewater,
Thank you for the privilege of considering “The Worst Story We’ve Ever Seen” for our review.
We read your submission carefully and we regret to say that we’re unable to publish it at this time. We thank you for your interest in The Southampton Review and wish you the best of luck in publishing your piece elsewhere.
If you can get to objective space you can see that while they were nice in considering it a privilege to read my stuff, and that they read it carefully, they are wishing me luck in placing it elsewhere and do not make any reference for desire to see more of my stuff.
Positive Rejection Letter: The Reject +
The second is called a Reject +. This is the language used at The Colorado Review. There may be other ways to classify this form, but this is language I use. If there is a good kind of rejection, this is the good kind. This one is from One Story.
Dear Kenneth Noisewater,
Thank you for sending us “A Way Less Shitty Story”. We really enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for One Story.
We hope that you will continue to send us your work.
The Editors of One Story
Essentially, they are saying that while this particular piece wasn’t a good fit, they like your writing and would like to see more of it. (So be sure to send them more ASAP.)
I used a very subtle example to demonstrate how subtle they can be, but you can check it here with other versions to be sure. This particular one is probably one of the most withholding of Reject + examples. If you read others below, you will see that they can get less (and more) subtle than this, and often so subtle it is hard to tell the difference. If you are unsure, check yours against the list below or check against Rejection Wiki.
Still, if your Rejection journal is not on the wiki, create an account and submit yours to help the community.
Examples of Standard Rejection Letters
I have stripped out the salutations and removed space breaks to make this more efficient. Everything else but submission/character/poem titles is verbatim.
New England Review
Thank you for giving us the chance to read “Why Even Bother?” While we have found that it’s not a good fit for the New England Review, we wish you the best in placing it elsewhere and appreciate your interest in our magazine.
New Ohio Review
Thank you for sending us your work. This submission wasn’t chosen for publication, but we appreciate your interest in our journal.
Arts & Letters
Thank you for giving us the chance to read your work; unfortunately, it doesn’t meet our needs at this time. As you know, we read a great number of quality submissions, and we can only accept a small fraction of them.
Michigan Quarterly Review
Thank you for your submission to Michigan Quarterly Review. We regret to say that your recent submission doesn’t meet our needs at the moment. Thank you for thinking of us, and we wish you the best of luck on your writing.
We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but unfortunately “The Way You Write” was not a right fit for Hudson Review.
Thank you for submitting your story, Godawful Writing, to Bluestem. We appreciate your interest in the magazine. Unfortunately, this piece is not a fit for us. We wish you the best of luck in placing it elsewhere.
We thank you for submitting “This Pile of Duke” for our consideration. We regret that we are unable to accept it for publication.
Thank you for sending us “Hot Garbage” We appreciate the opportunity to read your work and regret that it does not fit the needs of TriQuarterly. We wish you success in placing it for publication.
Thank you for the chance to read your work. Unfortunately, we can’t use it at this time. We appreciate your interest, your effort, and your sense of adventure.
Thank you for sending us your work. We appreciate the opportunity to read and consider it. Unfortunately, we could not find a place for your piece at this time.
Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately we don’t feel it’s a good fit for n+1, but thank you for thinking of us, and we wish you good luck in finding a home for it elsewhere!
After very careful consideration and making it to the final round of reading, we wish to express our regret that the manuscript submitted is unsuited to the present needs of the magazine. Although we will not be publishing this piece, we thank you for letting us read your work.
Thank you for sending “Laughing AT You, Seriously”. The piece isn’t quite right for us, but we appreciate the chance to read it, and wish you the best of luck submitting it elsewhere.
We appreciate the opportunity to read your work, but we’ve decided not to publish “Whatever the Fuck This Actually Is.” Thank you for trying us.
Shenandoah (some might consider this a Reject+, but we don’t)
Thank you for sending us your fiction submission. We appreciated the chance to consider your work, and found much to admire in this story, but didn’t feel that it was quite right for Shenandoah. We wish you the best of luck finding the right home for it!
Black Warrior Review
Thank you for your interest in Black Warrior Review, and for taking the time to send us your work. Unfortunately, after careful review, we have decided the submission isn’t a good fit for us at this time. We wish you the best of luck placing your work elsewhere.
Thank you for submitting to Pleiades. Although we appreciate your interest in the journal, we are unable to publish your work at this time. Nonetheless, we thank you for thinking of us, and we wish you the best of luck placing your work elsewhere.
Thank you for sending us “Low Quality Lawn Fertilizer”. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the story does not meet our publishing needs at this time. We wish you the best in placing your work elsewhere.
Green Mountains Review
Thank you for sending us “These Poems, About and Signifying Nothing.” We appreciate the chance to read your poems. Unfortunately, they are currently not for us. Sorry to have to pass on these. Thank you again and best of luck in placing them elsewhere. We wish you all the best and thank you for your interest in Green Mountains Review.
The American Scholar
We’re sorry to say that we have decided against taking “Proof You Have No Idea What We Even Publish Here.” The best way to know what we are publishing is of course to read the magazine, which we hope you will continue to do. Thank you for thinking of us, and best of luck.
Thank you for sending us “Four Poems All With Equal Success Rates”. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, the work is not for us.
Thank you for sending us “You’re Completely Missing The Point.” We are grateful for the chance to read it, but the piece is not the right fit for us at this time. Best of luck with this, and thanks again.
We are sorry to report that your manuscript has not been selected for publication. We thank you for letting us consider your writing, however, and we wish you the best in placing it elsewhere.
Thanks for sending us “What We Consider to be Actual LOLs and Not Just the Kind You Text to People While Not Actually LOLing” We’re sorry to say that this submission isn’t right for The Sun. This isn’t a reflection on your writing. The selection process is highly subjective, something of a mystery even to us. There’s no telling what we’ll fall in love with, what we’ll let get away. Writing is hard work, and writers merit some acknowledgment. This note doesn’t speak to that need. Please know, however, that we’ve read your work and appreciate your interest in the magazine. We wish you the best in placing your writing elsewhere.
Agni (they do encourage resubmitting, but we wouldn’t consider this a +)
Thank you for sending “Audible Facepalm.” After careful consideration, we’ve decided against publishing this submission. However, our staff is available to read anytime between September 1st and May 31st. Feel free to upload another submission through your account.
Thank you for your interest in Blackbird. Unfortunately, we won’t be publishing your work. We wish you the best of luck in your future writing endeavors.
Although we won’t be able to keep anything from your submission, we are grateful that you sent work our way. Thank you very much for your interest in POETRY magazine.
Examples of Reject + Rejection Letters
Thanks for your submission. I really enjoyed reading this piece, but I am writing to let you know we’re passing on it. This is the annoying part, because it’s hard to pinpoint the one specific thing that made it not quite the right fit, and all I can offer is this: I think your writing is good, and I’m glad to have read it, and I hope you’ll send more. Sorry this one didn’t work out. I’m sure it will end up somewhere great. Thanks for giving me a chance to read this.
Thank you for submitting to StoryQuarterly. We have read your piece and we’re sorry to say that we don’t have a place for it in the upcoming issue. We wish you the best of luck in finding another home for the story, and we hope you’ll try us again.
Thank you for your recent submission to the Sewanee Review. Unfortunately, your manuscript doesn’t suit the present needs of the magazine. We hope you’ll find a place for it at another publication, and that you continue to keep us in mind as a destination for future submissions.
Thank you for sending us “Poems Less Good Than the Poems We Typically Accept,” but unfortunately we’ve decided not to publish anything from this submission. We work hard to consider every poem fairly and carefully—both Megan and I read everything we receive without delegating that task to any interns or other readers, but we’re whittling 120,000 a year down to the 150 that we publish, so the odds are always long. That doesn’t mean we aren’t grateful that you shared your work with us, or that we don’t find value in it. We’re happy to read submissions any time, year-round—regular submissions are always free, and we pay all contributors. So hopefully we’ll always be at the top of your list for places to send new poems.
New Orleans Review
Thank you for sending us “Very Well-Written Terdscape, Yes, You Can Spell Tyrd with, Like, Almost Every Vowel.” We regret that it did not make the final round, and that it has taken us so long to get back to you. We appreciate your thinking of us, and we’d be happy to see more of your work in the future.
Thank you for sending us “Regular Shortcomings.” We appreciate the chance to read it, and, though we enjoyed it, we will not be publishing this piece. We look forward to reading more of your work!
Thank you for sending us “Whatever is Just Below Bronze Medal.” While we weren’t able to accept your work for publication at this time, we hope that you will consider submitting your work to us in the future.
Thank you for sending your work to Narrative. We are always grateful for the opportunity to review new material, and we have given “Participation Trophy” close attention and careful consideration. We found many strengths to recommend your work and, overall, much to admire. We regret, however, that “Everything Collapsed at the Ranger’s Station” is not quite right for us. We encourage you try us again in the future, and we hope that you will.
Thank you for submitting to Ploughshares. Although we will not be publishing “What We Are Certain You Still Consider to be Time Well-Spent & Personal Growth No Matter What the Outcome, So Kudos to Your Bravery” at this time and are sorry to disappoint you, please be assured that your manuscript was read carefully by editors and trained screeners. Our reasons for not accepting particular submissions are varied and often have more to do with the shape of our recent acquisitions and upcoming issues than with the quality of writing we receive. Thank you again for the opportunity to consider your work, and we regret any delay in our response to you. We hope you’ll continue to read and submit to Ploughshares.
The Cincinnati Review
Thanks for sending us your work. We didn’t feel it was quite right for us, but we hope you’ll try us again.
Thank you for submitting your work to Poetry Northwest, and for your patience while giving us a chance to consider it for publication. We have read your work carefully, and find much to admire, but regret to say we will not be able to use it at this time. Please know, we especially enjoyed “This Particular One We Aren’t Publishing Either.” We appreciate your interest in Poetry Northwest, and wish you continued success. Our reading period is September 15 – January 15, and you’re welcome to try us again.
Sincere thanks for sending us “What Your Mom Considers to be A++ Stuff, Hon” for consideration. Our staff especially admired Your Main Character’s interesting voice and the way she observed life around her. Though we’ve decided not to publish this piece, we are quite interested in seeing more of your writing and hope you’ll send other work in the near future.
Thanks very much for thinking of the Kenyon Review with these poems. We found much to admire here, and though this batch is ultimately not right for KR, we’re glad to have had the opportunity to read your work. Best of luck with these elsewhere. Please do try us again next reading period.
Thank you for submitting your work to Harvard Review. We apologize for the delay in responding. While we are unable to accept your piece for publication, we would be happy to read more of your work in the future. Thank you for your interest in Harvard Review.
Thank you for sending us “Really Well-Crafted Hotel Art” We enjoyed this piece, but we didn’t feel it was right for The Southern Review. We hope that you will continue to send us your work.
Thanks so much for sending along your work for our consideration. We’ve given it careful attention and appreciate your interest. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a fit for us this time. We receive many more fine submissions than we can publish; therefore, our decision is not a reflection of your work’s quality, and we wish you the best in placing it elsewhere. If you believe your work is right for us again sometime in the future, we hope to see it!
Thank you very much for sending “The Best Looking Stuff We Would Never Consider” to Boulevard. Although it was not selected for publication, it received positive feedback from our readers. Good luck placing this with another magazine. Please try us again!
Thank you for submitting “What is Clearly an Early Draft, but Not an Awful Start, I Guess – Really Too Early to Tell” for Creative Nonfiction’s “Learning from Nature” issue and contest. We received almost 500 submissions, and we’ve appreciated reading all of the different ways people have approached the theme. After considering your essay carefully, though, we are very sorry to be writing with the news that it is not among the finalists. We appreciate your interest in and support of Creative Nonfiction and we hope you’ll consider submitting work to us again in the future.