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I'm preparing a manuscript to submit to Physical Review Letters. On their website it says that the word limit is 3750 words.

Does this word limit count every word in the whole manuscript, including title abstract acknowledgements and references? Or does it only cover the body text? I couldn't find this information on their website.

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    Sorry, maybe a silly question, but why is this downvoted?
    – Clumsy cat
    Aug 17, 2021 at 16:10
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    @Clumsycat Maybe because the answer to the question can be literally found by following a link on the very website that OP has linked?
    – Sursula
    Aug 17, 2021 at 16:56
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    @Sursula that doesn't say much for OP's reading comprehension, but the question still seems on-topic, and heaven knows, I've failed to properly comprehend clearly written instructions before. It seems to me that this question is on topic and OP may not be the last person to overlook that link.
    – Clumsy cat
    Aug 17, 2021 at 20:21
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    I checked again and the link on that page is quite easy for me to find now. I'm excited but also pretty stressed about the process, and my reading comprehension for topics I'm very stressed about is significantly lower than my average. I looked through the page a couple of times before posting, and I've appreciated the answer here. (Thanks for helping me feel a little less silly @Clumsy cat)
    – Jojo
    Aug 18, 2021 at 8:43
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    Rule of thumb: If you end up at a bit less than 4 pages before acknowledgements + references start, you should be roughly fine. And if not, PRL will tell you to shorten the manuscript (they will provide a length estimate) before continuing. So as long as your paper is not excessively long compared to this, no need to worry. In particular, no need to go through the involved word-counting procedure.
    – user151413
    Sep 15, 2021 at 21:20

1 Answer 1

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On the page you linked to, it says

For a more detailed explanation of length limits, please consult the journals’ Length Limit Guide.

If you were to follow that link, you'd find that the length formula used by APS is somewhat complicated, as they assign an equivalent number of words to figures, tables, and equations. However, it also establishes that e.g. abstract, author listings, references, and acknowledgements do not count towards the length limit.

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    Although the various formulas over the years (APL, PRL, ...) are approximations, and passing the formula count does not guarantee fitting within (hard anymore?) page limit. If every paragraph has one word left hanging on its own line at the end, well, that is a problem (and the first place to look for taking out one word to gain an entire line back).
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 17, 2021 at 14:00
  • @JonCuster Yes, trying to quantitatively use those formulas has some inevitable uncertainty, but it certainly helps to know that some parts of the manuscript won't count. And the length estimate APS provides on the submission page seems wildly inaccurate at times. In practice, the best guide seems to be if everything that counts can be fitted within some number of pages (4 for PRL).
    – Anyon
    Aug 17, 2021 at 14:10
  • Back in the day, there were several TeX formats floating around that copied APL and PRL output pretty well. The few times I had issues it isn't clear that they would have helped either. As you say, follow their instructions and most of the time there won't be a problem.
    – Jon Custer
    Aug 17, 2021 at 14:14
  • @JonCuster The page limit got replaced by the word count.
    – user151413
    Sep 15, 2021 at 21:22
  • @user151413 - Interesting, and thanks for bringing me up to date. Not so surprising in this day and age with pdf files rather than hard copy. Sure would have made life a bit easier back in the day.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 15, 2021 at 21:49

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