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Here is an example of an invitation I received recently (edited for anonymity): 

Dear All,

For the last couple of years, The JOURNAL has published CONFERENCE_NAME issues. Each issue contains 5 or 6 contributions from a particular CONFERENCE_NAME conference that have been designated by the local committee for this specific purpose.

Hence, you are invited to submit your CONFERENCE_NAME 2015 paper to JOURNAL. The issue is scheduled to appear as issue 1 of 2017 (volume XX). Each contribution should not exceed 25 pages (appr. 10,000 words).

The schedule for submission etc is:

First submission: January 2016
Reviews: April 2016
Revised/final version: July 1 2016

Your article will be reviewed anonymously. Agreeing to submit your paper is therefore not a guarantee that JOURNAL will accept it.

Please let me know whether you wish to participate in this special JOURNAL issue.

best regards, PERSON (Editor-in-Chief)

You might also be invited to contribute a book chapter e.g. to an edited volume or an encyclopedia or handbook on something that you are an expert in, and occasionally in these cases they may first ask you for an abstract and only then invite you to submit a full paper, if selected. 

What makes it clear that it's an invited contribution is that you couldn't just submit a paper out of the blue, unlike "normal" submissions to a journal.

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