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a philosopher

I always assumed that the papers you see published above a journal's word-count limit grew in the R&R stage, not that they were initially submitted above the limit.


Some (most?) journals allow papers to grow through the revising process. Some journals set increasingly higher standards for longer papers (e.g. AJP, Utilitas). I've seen some journals consider papers slightly above the word limit - just flag it in your cover letter). Some journals are not clear as to whether notes and/or references count. Etc.


Me too, a philosopher. In fact, I have a paper out in the AJP that was submitted close to the limit, and in my R&R the editors explicitly gave me leave to go about 500 words over (IIRC) to deal with the comments.

I suspect most journals would be flexible with very small violations (e.g. 7513 words), but I can't imagine any of them being happy with a 2500-word overrun.


I've heard journal of philosophy almost always publishes over their stated word limit, which was 8,000 (not sure if they updated things in the last 6 months since I saw the online conversation.) Everything got started as one person mentioned how weird it was that every single paper in the last two issues was way over their stated word limit. The conversation I saw on FB suggested that everyone "in the know" understood their actual word limit was 12,000, and that this is what editors often told people who asked. Someone suggested they just may have never updated their website. Shrug. I don't know what to think.


Michel I've revised and published papers that were close to 3k over the journal's stated word limit. They always started as under, but referees are demanding.


In case anyone is interested in at least one of the reasons these limits exist and why journals are tough on this front:

While I was working as an editorial assistant for a journal that was affiliated with one pf the big publishing houses, we wanted to publish an issue that went beyond our agreed limits with the publisher. They were a hard 'no' on this given that the journal had a certain price for libraries and that more pages would mean they'd have to charge more for it. I think because prices were agreed well in advance, they couldn't just bump the price up. [This was seven years ago so I'm sure now there is more electronic and package selling.] The publisher said we could put in a request to get bumped up in total issue pages in the future but we'd need to make a case based on prestige: how many submissions, how many rejections, what are the views/downloads/citations looking like. So, for some journals, this isn't just an editorial level decision, at least not one they are in a position to make today for you in particular in this instance.

All the more reason for more open access journals, but that's a well worn issue.


as a data point, Mind recently desk rejected a paper of mine (in under 24 hours, so I suspect this was the real reason) for being about 2500 words over their stated word limit. (Of course, who knows if they (a) make exceptions for papers that look particularly appealing or (b) might have just particularly hated my paper.)

Journal of Philosophy did not desk reject a paper of mine that was well over their stated limit (I think by about 3500 words). They did eventually reject it, but with helpful and detailed comments. So they didn't seem to take its length as a reason not to consider it.



Yeah, I meant initially over the limit by that much. I, for one, would never dare do it!


Political Studies let me publish something a bit over the word limit. I was about 2000 words over. They asked me to address a few comments from reviewers, and then to try to cut the 2000. I addressed the reviewers and made some cuts, and the paper ended up 1000 or so over the limit, in the end. They were fine with it. FWIW, this happened about 10 years ago.

Steven French

Since the BJPS was mentioned, we do send papers that are over 10k back to authors to cut down before we send them out to referees. The bottom line is, we are constrained by OUP's 'page budget' which in turn is dependent on the print run which is there because we still have a non-negligible number of 'print only' subscribers.


BJHP has a strict limit. The managing editor will send your submission back to you and ask you to cut words if it's over the limit.


Journal of the History of Ideas has a strict limit. I recently learned from the editor of the Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society that their limit is more flexible.


Analysis is very strict: they will not allow you to exceed the word limit after resubmission

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