The Kenyon Review published a long, musing piece on the many forms of the rejection letter. What does it mean? Well, it means "nothing" as well as "no." How do various magazines reject you—and how has the New Yorker's rejection slip evolved?
"Many magazines lean on a form letter, a printed note, a card, and I study them happily. The New Yorker, under the gentle and peculiar William Shawn, sent a gentle yellow slip of paper with the magazine’s logo and a couple of gentle sentences saying, gently, no. Under the brisker Robert Gottlieb, the magazine sent a similar note, this one courteously mentioning the “evident quality” of your submission even as the submission is declined. Harper’s and the Atlantic lean on the traditional Thank You But; Grand Street, among other sniffy literary quarterlies, icily declines to read your submission if it has not been solicited; the Sun responds some months later with a long friendly note from the editor in which he mentions that he is not accepting your piece even as he vigorously commends the writing of it; the Nation thanks you for thinking of the Nation; and the Virginia Quarterly Review sends, or used to send, a lovely engraved card, which is worth the price of rejection..."