I am currently writing an article that I hope to submit to a specific journal on women’s studies. The journal’s word limit is 6,000 to 9,000 words.

I am still in the planning phase of writing. How should I organise my writing in light of this? Do I aim for the lower end of the word count or should I aim for 9,000?

  • Why is this deemed "off-topic"? Academia's guidelines include questions about "academic writing and publishing," This is wrong. – Philly Jan 28 at 1:14
  • @Philly: This question was closed because it was focusing on a specific paper for a specific journal. We cannot answer such questions with much more than “it depends” because we neither now the specific paper nor the journal’s preferences (see this FAQ. However, as the answers demonstrate, we can answer the more general question of how to write with a word limit in mind. I edited the question accordingly and reopened. – Wrzlprmft Jan 29 at 8:47
  • @Wrzlprmft Thank you. – Philly Jan 31 at 3:52

Aim for what you want to say, and then see where you are. Every paper I've ever written was too long in the beginning because I wrote down what I thought was necessary to say. Then you cut to what the limit is, by omitting unnecessary words (the English language has many options for that), critically rethinking whether a sentence is necessary, etc. But that should be the second step: Start by putting down what the paper should be, absent word limits.

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    Write "long" and then cut with a vicious hand. Make it tight. – Buffy Jan 1 at 14:51

I believe that aiming at a certain length is generally a bad idea, and it is not good for a journal to give such a narrow window. Articles or dissertations written with a strong intent to reach or not to exceed a certain length generally do not read good. It is best to write articles in the natural way, and the natural way is to focus on what you want to say. Furthermore, an intent to meet a certain length requirement is often clearly felt by too succinct explanations or, on the contrary, large pieces of information of little value. If I were you, I would seriously reconsider the choice of the journal.

But if you really want or need to submit your work to that journal, then I would advise to aim at the middle of the window, for the following reason: if you happen to write somewhat shorter or longer than planned, you will still be inside the range. Also, an article of a length around the middle of the allowed range won't make anyone think that the author may have struggled to meet the length requirements by expanding or cutting the article.

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    Generally the point of a word limit is to give an approximate idea of the scope/depth desired. 6000-9000 words is somewhere between 24-36 pages. After 36 pages, you're getting to be more of a book chapter chapter or, perhaps, you're likely to be really treating more than one major topic (and thus should split it into two separate articles). Less than 6000 words might be better suited as a notes/letters submission. In any case, most humanities journals will even give a bit of leeway beyond that range (for example, someone whose articles necessitates lengthy quotes might be allowed >9k) – user0721090601 Jan 1 at 17:51

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