A few hints on getting papers accepted -- or at least not pissing off reviewers too much.
Seriously, how hard is it to run your paper through a spellchecker before submission? Whenever I see a paper with typos - more than one or two - I figure the authors were too rushed or lazy to get something as simple as spelling right, and this casts doubt on the technical content of the paper as well. Sometimes typos creep through that a spellchecker won't catch - like using "their" instead of "there". You were supposed to learn that distinction in high school. (I have some bad habits of my own. For some reason, I always type "constrast" instead of "contrast" -- no doubt a holdover muscle memory from my days programming LISP.)
2. Get the English right.
This is a major problem for papers coming from non-native speakers, and although one is supposed to overlook this, nothing grates on a reviewer more than having to slog through a paper full of grammatical mistakes and strange wording choices. Sometimes the nature of the grammatical and stylistic problems can reveal the provenance of the authors: Asian writers tend to confuse singular and plural, while Indian writers tend to use convoluted "Indianized" expressions held over from the days of the Raj. (One paper I once reviewed used the Indian term crore -- meaning 10,000,000 -- as though everyone knew what that meant.) If in doubt, get a native (that is, American) English speaker to review the paper before submission. Be sure to throw a couple of "Go U.S.A.!"s in there for good measure; it'll mask your foreign identity.
3. Make the figures readable!
I can't tell you how many times I have been unable to read a figure because it was formatted assuming the reader would be looking at a PDF on a color screen, and able to zoom in to read the tiny letters in the legend. This is not yet possible with printed paper, and I tend to print in black and white, as I suspect many reviewers do. When formatting figures, I try to use colors that will have adequate contrast even in black and white, use thick lines with a variety of dash styles that make them easy to distinguish, and set 18 pt Helvetica font that will be legible when squashed down to figure size.
4. "Related work" is not just a list of citations.
In general I really dislike "related work" sections that merely list off a bunch of related papers without explaining how they differ from the paper at hand. The point behind this section is not to simply give a shout out to potential reviewers or to prove you've done your homework: it is to contrast the contributions of your paper from what has come before. Also, your goal is not to shoot down every other paper you have read, but rather to place your work in context and explain the lineage. It is OK if another paper has worked on a similar problem and even shown good results. This suggests you may not be barking completely up the wrong tree.
5. Make sure the intro kicks ass.
It is not uncommon for me to decide whether I'll mark a paper as "accept" or "reject" after reading the first page. Actually, more likely I'll have decided on a "reject" early on, and withhold any "accept" decision until I've read the whole thing. Still, a beautifully written introduction that makes a compelling case for the ideas in your paper goes a LONG way towards influencing the reviewer's disposition. David Patterson is the master at this. After you read the intro to, say, the Case for ROC paper, you think to yourself, "but of course! This is the best idea ever!" and then feel really crappy for not having thought of it yourself.
6. Get to the point.
The first paragraph of the introduction is an opportunity to dive into the subject of your paper, not an excuse to toss out some lazy canned problem statement copied from a dozen other papers you read last year. The first sentences from my last three papers were:
Wireless sensor networks have the potential to greatly improve the study of diseases that affect motor ability.All three tell you immediately what the paper is about; these are not throw-away statements.
The unused portions of the UHF spectrum, popularly referred to as “white spaces”, represent a new frontier for wireless networks, offering the potential for substantial bandwidth and long transmission ranges.
Resources in sensor networks are precious.
7. State your contributions!
I can't believe how many papers never explicitly state the contributions of the work. Giving a numbered list of your contributions is essential, since it gets the reviewer focused on what you think is important about the paper, and it defines the scope of the eventual review. Too many papers lay forth platitudes of how the work will cure cancer and world hunger, but it's hard to tease that apart from how you've tweaked a timing parameter in 802.11. By the same token, contributions should be focused and concrete. Tell us specifically what you did, what the results were, and why it matters.
8. Don't bullshit.
Finally, don't exaggerate your results or claim more than you have really done. Nothing irks me more than a paper that promises to solve a huge problem and ends up showing a tiny sliver of the solution in a carefully-concocted setting. It is far better to understate your results and impress the heck out of the reviewers than overstate the results and let the reader down. Everyone knows that the path from design to prototype to results is filled with pitfalls, and you will be excused for having cut some corners to demonstrate the idea; but make sure the corners you cut were not too essential to the core contributions you are trying to make.
Following these eight simple rules, I guarantee your paper will be accepted to any program committee that I serve on! (Hope you're planning a SIGCOMM'10 submission!)