I'm writing a manuscript for a journal that has a word limitation for papers:

Papers should be no longer than about 6500 words to include Figures, Tables and References.

I am not totally sure, does it mean that Figures, Tables and References are not included in this limitation or does it mean that the entire paper must not exceed 6500 words?

Update: Following your recommendations, I contacted the editors: References are included in the 6500 words, words in tables and figures are not. My references comprise about 1000 words, so now I have to shorten all other parts, which is not easy.

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    Strange wording, I must say. Out of curiosity, downloaded one of the papers published in the current issue and found the number of words in it to be 7506. This is assuming that the command I used (pdftotext) counted the number of words accurately. It may be best to contact the journal editor for clarification. The other option is to not worry about and submit the manuscript. If it exceeds the maximum, they will ask you to reduce the number of words for the final version.
    – hpc
    Feb 24, 2017 at 17:58
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    "To include" can be synonymous with "including" when referring to the future (although I would have put a comma before it), so this means figures, tables, and references are included in the word count. Feb 24, 2017 at 18:09
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    If a picture is worth a 1000 words then after pasting 3 figures there isn't really much you have to actually write. :) Feb 24, 2017 at 19:24
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    I agree with @hpc. Just submit what you feel is a draft that presents your work clearly and has a low likelihood of obviously exceeding the word count. Your goal should not to get them to clarify their policy, but rather to get your paper published. Feb 24, 2017 at 20:17
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    The guidelines actually mention "Authors will be asked to reduce papers that are significantly longer than this" - as @hpc found, some of their published papers are already a bit longer so it seems like this might be a soft rather than hard cap - I would still suggest clarifying with the editor. Word counts for references, etc are a bit dodgy because different software may have different definitions of what "words" are - one reason why including a word count on references is a bit out of the ordinary. I would suggest citing only papers with 1 author and short journal names (sarcasm).
    – Bryan Krause
    Feb 24, 2017 at 23:35

2 Answers 2


The wording here makes me think that the 6500 word count includes figures, tables, and references, as "to include" seems like a synonym for "including". However, it is always, always good to ask for clarification, especially when the wording, as in this case, leaves room for interpretation. I would email or otherwise contact the journal editor and ask for clarification. Contact information for the journal you linked in the comments can I believe be found here.


The wording is obscure, and the only way to clarify it is to contact the editorial office.

Contra the interpretation given in the previous answer, the requirement could also be interpreted as follows:

Papers should be no longer than about 6500 words, in order for them to also include Figures, Tables and References

This means the word limit does not include tables and figures.

I prefer this interpretation because

  • it explains which subject the verb 'to include' belongs to.

  • it is consistent with no word number equivalent being mentioned for tables and figures.

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