A Question about Article Cover Letters

A graduate student writes in with a question about submitting articles to journals:

Submission portals at journals sometimes mention cover letters, or provide room for one to write a note to the editor within the submission portal. But is this done when first submitting, or only when revising? And if so, what do authors tend to write there? Occasionally it seems like an artifact of the fact that publishing houses also publish other journals that are in fields other than philosophy and have submission sites that share the same setup, but like many other aspects of publishing, it may also just be one of those aspects of the process that is important and yet obscure to us graduate students. Any clarification is greatly appreciated! 

Authors, what, if anything, do you put in your cover letters? And editors, does it matter?

illustration by Mark Powell

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