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Moti Mizrahi

Hi Marcus,

Don't you if you've tried it already but Ergo (http://www.ergophiljournal.org ) doesn't seem to have a word limit (at least, their website doesn't say anything about word counts).

Carlo Ierna

Without further information about the journals in question, I cannot say whether this is a serious option for you, but I once split a paper in two parts and published it as two articles (explicitly titled as parts) in subsequent issues of the journal.


Could you have a colleague read the paper specifically with an eye towards what can be cut? An outside perspective might help you to trim things down, particularly if you know someone whose own writing tends towards the terse or concise. If you can't bring in an outside voice, it might be helpful to think about how you would present the paper at a conference. Assume you have 30 minutes and you are forbidden from actually reading the paper. What points make your talk? What things get left for possible exploration in the Q&A? That might provide some hints to what is less essential.

Kris McDaniel

In my experience, I am almost always able to cut, but it gets progressively harder to do it.

Here's some tips. Warning: they are excruciating to follow, but I've found they work.

Tip one: Read your paper backwards. Start with the last sentence first and go from there. Tip two: have your computer read your paper out loud.

I almost always find ways to trim after these exercises, but they are miserable. I think the reason that they work is that they force me to read my paper in a new way -- which opens my eyes to new ways of expressing the same content.


Marcus Arvan

Thanks for the comments, everyone.

Carlos: not an option, unfortunately!

AGS: I suppose getting someone to read it might help out - perhaps I'll give that a shot (though, again, I feel like the paper is *very* lean as-is).

Kris: Thanks for the tips. Nothing like them has ever occurred to me. I do think I could probably cut out some stuff, but 3-5,000 words just feels impossible while preserving all of the necessary content. But who knows - perhaps I'll get back to you with the results!

Kris McDaniel

If I can follow up a bit more on my suggestions... when trying to cut words -- or as I prefer to think of it, express the same ideas better -- one has to watch out for the trap of thinking, "I just don't see how I can make *this paper* any briefer". If you focus on the whole paper as a whole it is really easy to get intimidated and overwhelmed by the prospect. But the tips I suggest force you to refocus on much smaller and manageable parts, which hopefully will lead you to ask yourself, "Can I make this sentence shorter? Can I make this paragraph shorter?"

It's only when I think I'm at the final draft with respect to *content* that I do this. Every time I've done this I've been shocked at how much I manage to trim. This probably shows that I suck at induction and also that I am less concise than I wish I were.

Marcus Arvan

Kris: sounds like a good way to think. I'll give it a shot!

Lewis Powell

Is it possible that your paper is trying to do too many things? Perhaps it is secretly two 8,000 word papers disguised as one 13,000 word paper.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Lewis: unfortunately, that's not what's going on. The paper defends one point and one point only, and the reviewers said it does a very good job of defending that point. They just said it wasn't a good fit for the journal.

Dan Dennis

Sounds like you could spend ages making it shorter and less clear - not every paper can be shortened. And is it really a good use of your precious time? If you have had encouraging feedback from a great journal then maybe try another great journal with a high word limit - Mind, PHilosophers Imprint, Philosophical Review all fall into this category if I remember correctly. If the paper is in ethics, 'Ethics' is up to 15,000...

Dan Dennis

Though sounds like it would be helpful to add a few words to your paper explaining why the question you address is important - so the paper is less likely to be rejected as being too narrow...

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for your comments, Dan. The problem is that the paper is on an applied issue, and there are only a handful of good journals that seem to publish papers on topics like mine (Ethics occasionally publishes stuff on applied issues, but not often). Anyway, I think it's on an important public issue, but it is a *very* narrow one. There may be a way to add a few sentences explaining why the argument probably has implications for other applied issues in the field, though -- so thanks for the advice!

Marcus Arvan

Kris: thanks again for the tip - it worked! Got it to under 10,000. Still not short enough for some journals -- and it'll be real hard (if not impossible) to get it down to 8K without losing important content -- but I was able to cut almost 3K words with your technique!

Carolyn Mason

I also tried Kris McDaniel's reading backwards tip. 3 pages backwards and I have already cut 100 words. It is painful, and it doesn't read quite as well as (I thought) it did, but I have not cut any key content. Thank you Kris! And thank you Marcus for the blog.

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