UU English Department Blog

Typical Features of Predatory Publishers’ Invitations


By Andrew Cooper

So, you have – hope against hope – received an email from a publisher assuring you that you can get a quick turnaround on your splendid article and add another desperately-needed line of text to your currently obviously padded list of publications. Then, on a second reading, you notice a few grammatical, spelling and pragmatic errors, such as the emails starting:

 “Dear Ms/Mr Cooper, Andrew” – where the surname is given first, like in a reference list,

 “Dear, and Andrew Cooper” – where the name is copied from a list where I came last,

 “Dear Processor Cooper” – weird, unless you don’t know how to spell “professor”,

Or my favourite:

 “Dear Professor/Scholar/Academician” – which at least suggests access to a good thesaurus.

Unlike broadcast scams, which are sent out in the millions, many of the emails were personalised, but almost always incorrectly, with evidence of automatic text-insertion.

After ignoring the first of these I realised that I received one from the same company every time I gave a conference talk, regardless of the content. Shortly afterwards, these started to be joined by requests for submissions, and even editorial positions for journals miles outside my areas of interest – for example, one invitation asked me to resubmit an already-published paper on an abstruse feature of Old Germanic poetic structure to a journal apparently specialising in microbiology (as noted in the previous post, I have run out of exclamation marks).

The language errors in the invitation emails we sampled are more subtle than in the more general broadcast scams, for example:

>We have learned your paper "((Paper title))" at ((Name of Conference)). We are very interested to publish your latest paper in the Journal of Modern Education Review

The use of “your paper” as an object of “learned”, and the use of “to publish” as an object of “interested” is grammatically incorrect – but did you spot them first time?

In our corpus, grassroots literacy conventions were fulfilled – basic punctuation, typography and spelling was mostly above-board. However, odd word choice and word order features were common, as in the following examples:

> Grasp the Privilege for Publishing Paper… Only in 30-50 days, paper with good quality can be published.

These grammatical cues are often accompanied by pragmatically bizarre phrases, such as this effusive appeal to misunderstood genius:

>We do not only published papers, but also spread them to other channels to increase their downloads and citations… We have been doing our best for world wide researchers, since we believe science is fantastic and your research is fantastic.

Well, as it happens my research is pretty funky – but they don’t know that.

One of the things which marks out these invitations is the use of collections of uninformative data. Much of the text habitually comprises long lists of potential topics, or the repetition of ISSN, ISBN and DOI numbers, impact factors, or databases in which the journal is referenced – none of which are indicators of quality, but look as though they might be to people not in the know.

Another key feature is an intense focus on location. In many cases “International” and “American” were included in the journal title, and false addresses in the US were common. It was great fun tracing down the office addresses and finding florist after florist – not many publishing companies have ground floor offices in Midtown Manhattan. Yet every invitation that mentioned a location mentioned the USA, especially New York City, often repeatedly throughout the email. I grew up in Britain, so a US address is utterly unimpressive to me – but to Expanding Circle scholars writing in English it must be almost a holy grail of internationalisation.

Last modified: 2021-02-22