Editorial decision making has been compared to democracy: “a system full of problems but the least worst we have”. Despite the well-known limitations, particularly of lack of double blinding and potential for bias, the editorial process aims to ensure that a published article is of the highest possible quality. The process should ensure that the authors’ work is displayed at its best. The end result of the process should be a paper which is exciting, novel, easily assimilated, internally consistent, balanced and appropriately detailed. Authors, including commercial writers, should try to avoid antagonising editors and reviewers: get all the writing team on board before submission, ensure the data are correct, be open about strengths and limitations, and realistic about the conclusions. During the post-acceptance, pre-publication period, there are important checks on quality, particularly for plagiarism and image manipulation, which enhance the validity of the work.