Usually, a Letter in PRL is limited to 3750 words. Yet frequently papers from large collaborations at CERN papers exceed this limit by a lot. One example is the recent record-setting paper with 5154 authors: https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.191803

But there are also examples in other fields, such as the first observation of gravitational waves: https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.116.061102

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    The limit applies to the actual article not including the author list.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 13:59
  • @JonCuster True, but the linked articles are unusually long even if you account for what doesn't count to the limit.
    – Anyon
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 14:20
  • See academia.stackexchange.com/questions/173535/… for other things not counted these days.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 14:33

2 Answers 2


PRL will make exceptions. These exceptions are few and far between but the gravitational wave paper is an example: it was clearly Nobel-level science and PRL wasn’t gonna reject the paper because it was too long. (The ATLAS paper you link to is 2015 so hardly recent.)

None of my papers in PRL is over the word limit…. :(

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    They clearly do for very important papers, but have they expressed publicly how they arrive at those decisions?
    – Anyon
    Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 16:56
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    @Anyon I don't think the process is public I just know from one of the authors of the gravitational wave paper that they did get an exception. I don't even know if they contacted the editorial team ahead of time to see if they could get an exception. Commented Aug 12, 2023 at 17:04

Editors can do whatever they want so long as they stay within budget.

For both the examples you gave, a majority of the text is not included in the word count as defined by Physical Review: https://journals.aps.org/authors/length-guide


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