I've read that many mathematics journals have page limits. What are they, roughly? I think in one of Steven Krantz's pieces he says that if a journal is going to publish a 50-page paper, then "it had better glow in the dark." A friend of mine heard that more junior faculty (straight out of grad school) should avoid publishing papers more than 30 pages long.

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    What is considered a reasonable length for a piece of string? Papers should be as long as they need to be. – David Richerby Feb 8 at 22:18

Different math journals specialize in papers of "around" a certain length. Trans AMS, for example, publishes long papers. The web sites give the limits and they are, I assume, pretty rigidly enforced.

I don't know that such long papers need to glow in the dark, but they need to justify their length. It is possible that a single theorem has an exceeding complex and long proof, the details of which are mostly new. If the theorem is important, then it will be justified.

At the other end of the scale a paper with somewhat more modest results, but which presents a complete (and novel) body of knowledge that might be extended by others, likewise warrants a long paper.

But don't try to make a paper extra long just to try to get into Trans AMS. It won't be helpful. And don't make a paper short by leaving out essentials making it impossible to understand.

As short as possible, but no shorter, is probably the right idea.

  • +1. My impression is that this is additionally dependent on the subject. For example, I have the impression that combinatorial probability papers lately start at 60 pages, whatever their luminescence properties. Some things just require lots of stage-setting and world-building. – darij grinberg Feb 8 at 2:02
  • At the same time, if a not very interesting result requires a long and boring proof, you might want to do a better job of picking problems in the future. – Alexander Woo Feb 8 at 2:19
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    Also, "as short as possible" doesn't mean taking out all the examples and additional exposition that helps readers understand your paper. (If I'm the referee, I'll just ask you to put it back in.) However, how many examples and what to explain about them does depend on the culture of your subfield. – Alexander Woo Feb 8 at 2:21
  • This answer would be better if it had concrete examples or ranges given. Referring the reader to an external website is not the best SE answer protocol. – Daniel R. Collins Feb 8 at 6:10