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I have submitted a paper to a good journal about 3 months ago. Now I have realized that there is a mistake in the paper. Now I have completely corrected it. It is not a very serious error, but I think it could create some problems in reading the paper. In particular there is a definition that should be changed, but not in a trivial way. The main results of the paper remain essentially unchanged.

So my question is: should I write to the editors of the journal in order to inform the referee about this problem or should I wait some comments by the referee?

Thank's!

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Don't you have a more experienced colleague or professor nearby to consult on this? The short answer is that you should notify the editor of the journal about this. –  Deane Yang Jan 19 '12 at 18:46
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Dear John, I think in your case, if you have a clear write-up of the correction which unambiguously explains how to modify the paper, you are better off sending it to the editors and hoping that the referee is sympathetic, rather than waiting. Otherwise, there is a real danger that the referee will find the mistake and reject the paper. (There is also a chance that the referee will find the correction, but that is less likely, just because it would require more work.) Regards, –  Emerton Jan 19 '12 at 18:47
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The should be a Community Wiki question since it has no one right answer. Please check the Community Wiki box. I think you should write the editor immediately. The referee may not have started reading your paper or gotten to the mistake, so by sending the correction you are saving his/her time. I am an editor and get such corrections from time to time. –  Benjamin Steinberg Jan 19 '12 at 18:48
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Voting to close because I think the comments already answer the question. –  Benjamin Steinberg Jan 19 '12 at 18:49
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closed as too localized by Deane Yang, Benjamin Steinberg, Bill Johnson, Daniel Litt, Mariano Suárez-Alvarez Jan 19 '12 at 19:15

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2 Answers

If the correction will help the referee understand your paper better, you should definitely write it up and send it to the editors, who will pass it on to the referee. Having served as a referee I can honestly say that I would always appreciate receiving clarifications, and would not hold that against anyone. You might also send a very short note, explaining the changes.

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The problem here is that, with an error that does prove the main results false, a good paper may be forced to restart the review procedure. This will entail some severe delays. So, my suggestion is to wait and then, after the report of the referee, a resubmission of a properly revised version of the paper.

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The OP said it doesnt effect the main results. If the mistake completely changes the nature of the paper one should consider withdrawing and writing a new paper, but this does not seem to be the case here. –  Benjamin Steinberg Jan 19 '12 at 18:52
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It shouldn't "restart the review procedure" --- the editor will just send the new version of the article to his current referee. –  anon Jan 19 '12 at 18:53
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