Red Pen Pals

  • Are you writing a draft that needs something, but you just can't put your finger on it?
  • Do you have an important deadline coming up, but your supervisor is incommunicado?
  • Would you like to practice reviewing papers?
  • Do you simply want to improve your writing? 

If you answered "YES!" to any of these questions, read on.

What is Red Pen Pals?

Red Pen Pals is a program that matches writers to reviewers. We aim to provide a helpful and relaxed avenue for Centre members to improve writing skills. 

Red Pen Pals offers a chance for you to: 
a) get some feedback on your writing; and
b) practice reviewing the work of your peers.

Both of these are vital skills for scientists, yet too often regarded as something somehow picked up along the way. Red Pen Pals is here to fix that.

Why should I sign up?

By signing up to be a Red Pen Pal, you will:

  • receive quality feedback on your writing from other scientists;  
  • learn how to review effectively;
  • sharpen your own writing skills through exposure to what makes writing effective (or less so); and
  • with regular participation, have a consistent writing goal to reach (writing consistently, they say, is the surest path to better writing!).
How does Red Pen Pals work?
  1. We start a new round on the 1st and 15th of every month.
  2. Writers sign up no later than the start date.  NB: By submitting a piece of writing, writers agree to review a piece of work, and to have their email addresses given to other Pen Pals.
  3. We match writers to reviewers, and notify partnered Pen Pals. This happens the day after the start date, contingent on at least two Pen Pals signing up for a round.
  4. Writers submit a piece of writing (no more than 10 pages of size 12 text, double spaced) to their reviewers ASAP.
  5. Reviewers provide feedback in the form of comments or edits. Reviewers should return their comments by an agreed-upon date.

That's it!

How do I sign up?

To sign up, fill in the form at the bottom of this page. 

  • We will place you into the round starting soonest. If you want to sign up for a later round, simply specify which one in the Comments box. Remember, rounds start on the 1st and 15th of every month.
  • If you want to be an on-going participant, or you want to sign up every month (or every other month), simply specify this in the comments box.
  • If there aren't enough people for a round, we will let you know and ask if you'd like to be placed into the following round.
  • If you just want to review, we can probably help you! Simply sign up below as normal- just type "review only" in the Comments box. 

Notes to writers:
  • Please be timely with your drafts! As a guideline, your writing should be ready for someone to read when you sign up.
  • Your writing doesn't have to be perfect! It's okay to have "(reference)" everywhere, or to not have your figures ready.
  • It might be helpful to your reviewer if you provide a little bit of background. Just a quick line in an email to briefly explain specialised terminology or theories will go a long way.
Notes to reviewers:
  • If there is specialised terminology or theory in your assigned paper that you don't understand, just ask the author for clarification. You might learn something new!
  • Try to provide helpful, clear, and constructive comments. By putting your finger on why the writing isn't perfect, you'll become a better writer yourself.


BAD: "I don't understand this sentence."
BETTER: "The wording of this sentence is unclear."
BEST: "I don't understand this sentence because the subject is missing."

BAD: "FALSE!", "NO!", "LIES!", etc.
BETTER: "Are you sure about this reference?"
BEST: "Are you sure about this reference? I saw a paper by Smith & Smith (2010) that says..."


Still have questions? Contact Floret Meredith, current coordinator of the Red Pen Pals program.


Enter your name so we know who to contact.
Enter the email you'd like us to share with your reviewers.
What kind of paper is this? This will help your reviewers to place your work in context and to understand what your writing is trying to convey. For example: My introduction section for a paper on how slug mucus changes with water stress. Hoping to submit in ~ 6 weeks.
Do you have a tight deadline? Is there a reviewer you wish to avoid? We'll do our best to make things work for you- but talk to your Pen Pal in the end. For example: I know John Doe is going in this round, but he's read my paper before. Can I be matched with someone else if possible?