Because of their brevity, this type of submission is typically concise and relies heavily on shared knowledge among readers of the journal. This requires a concise writing style that must also report your findings or opinion clearly and accurately, and in an appropriate tone for the journal.
Some journals publish these more rapidly than other types of submissions. Others go through the normal process and have the same speed of publication.
Check the journal guidelines carefully. Some journals require checking with the journal editor before sending a short communication–others ask that authors please not check before sending one. The guidelines will be your best source of information for the particulars of a journal.
In some journals, "Letters to the editor" overlap with other types of brief communication. Some journals accept letters about preliminary findings of substantial interest and others do not.
Letters and other manuscript types in the correspondence category are usually about points of interest (commentaries) for the community of readers or comments on articles previously published in that particular journal, along with the response to those comments.
We'll discuss key points about writing letters to the editor in a later featured article.
Common to certain fields (most notably, mathematics and physics), these can help to establish priority, which is especially helpful in priority disputes in technology fields, and also allow helpful feedback from peers in advance of publication.
Not all journals will accept papers that have been submitted to a pre-print service, so if you are planning to submit a full-length paper on your findings in the future, check whether your potential target journals allow it before uploading your paper to the pre-print server. Some journals have specific exceptions for well-known repositories (such as ArXiv).
We'll cover the topic of using pre-print servers in a more detailed forthcoming featured article.
Some fields (computer science, in particular) use conferences as the main form of publication. In these, the equivalent to a brief note is presentation of an abstract without presentation of the full paper. Presentation and publication of abstracts at conferences and meetings is not considered prior publication. To comply with the latest publication ethics, we simply need to declare that it was presented or published in this format and provide the information to the journal editor when submitting our full paper.
Some journals offer fast-track publication of full papers. This is an alternative for researchers wanting to have a full research paper published quickly.