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With increasing pressure for university staff and students to publish in international refereed journals, researchers will benefit from guidance on how decisions to accept or reject articles are made by these journals. This paper examines 28 reviewer reports in applied linguistics, and categorises the 115 individual criticisms made in two ways. First, the criticisms were categorised based on the article section that prompts the comment, and second, they were categorised based on the research quality criterion that the comment focuses on. There is no clear indication that any particular section or criterion is most likely to lead to an article being rejected. Rather, rejection typically appears to be based on an accumulation of comments of different types. Example comments linked to guidelines for writing articles are given to help novice researchers to produce articles less likely to be rejected.