Word Counts and Limits

As some of you are likely aware, we've been gradually increasing the word limit for submissions. Among the many reasons for doing so, shorter limits:

  • Produce an uneven playing field for work that presents its empirical material in narrative form. 
  • Make it particularly difficult to combine different methods and methodologies in a particular manuscript.
  • Create incentives for authors to "slash and burn" their references, which is all kinds of bad.

These expansions can happen because of the changes to the ISQ format introduced some years ago to handle a very large backlog. This created 'excess space.' That is, if we maintain the journal's selectively at a level commensurate with its peers, we have room for longer articles. But we've been very conservative about incremental expansions to length, because if we miscalculate we could reverse progress with respect to the journal's backlog.

Why am I talking about this?

The guidelines describe how to calculate the word limit of submission as "excluding online-only supplementary information, but including footnotes, endnotes, bibliography, and tables." Please follow these instructions. We've basically used the "honor system" for word limits—especially because of variation in counts across different applications. But I've started to check submissions myself, and I'm seeing a fair number of people exclude their bibliographies and their (extensive) footnotes. This is not okay. It messes with our tracking of our page budget, and hence our ability to calibrate when it comes to future expansions of the word count and ad hoc grants of additional space.


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