The acceptance stage
Acceptance proposal from the Associate Editor and official acceptance by the Chief Editor
The Associate Editor in charge of a given paper proposes the paper's acceptance to the Editor-in-Chief, who then sends the author -sometimes with a delay of more than one week- the formal acceptance letter.
There are several reasons to this double acceptance process. First, the Editor-in-Chief needs to the make sure that the peer-review process is consistent, i.e., that the Associate Editors all have comparable acceptance criteria. The second reason is that formal acceptance requires several decisions from the Editor-in-Chief. The section of publication and keywords must be chosen and/or corrected; likewise, one must decide what level of language editing is needed, whether part of the article should be published as an Appendix, and whether the paper is subject to page charges.
Note that the official date of acceptance of the paper is the day when the paper is accepted by the Associate Editor in charge of the scientific peer-review process. Time spent after this decision to improve the manuscript and to make the final publishing decisions is editing time for which the author should not be penalized since the scientific content of the paper has already been deemed publishable.
The editorial decisions at acceptance time are the following. The first two, choice of section of publication and of keywords, should be self-explanatory. Since the author can enter these data in MMS using pull-down menus at the time the submission is sent to the Journal, the Editors should not even have to deal with them. In practice, however, many authors still do not indicate the Journal's section for which the paper is submitted, and the keywords must still be modified in many cases. Contributors are therefore encouraged to pay attention to these important details to save time between acceptance and publication.
Papers are sent to language editors after acceptance, at the recommendation of either the referee or one of the Journal's editors. It is also important to know that, unlike at some journals, not all papers are looked at by a language editor, which can explain some differences in usage between the articles actually published, as well as some minor differences between suggestions made by each of the language editors.
Additional information is available in the A&A English guide or on the A&A web site.