I am trying to determine if it will be feasible to revise a manuscript for a journal that has a 6500 word limit. Currently, the manuscript is between 7500 and 8000 words long, depending on how I count words. However, it is not clear which of the following words will count toward my word count (in decreasing order of word count):

  • Figure and table legends
  • Abstract
  • Citations
  • Math equations
  • Section headings
  • Numbers

Which of these uses count toward a word limit? Are there general rules for which words count toward a word limit?

Bonus: how strict are editors with word limits?

1 Answer 1


First of all, you should check and see if they have any guidelines posted that will help you to be certain that you stay within their listed range. If they don't have anything listed, then you could send them an inquiry to try to find out.

  • Generally, the word count would not include the title page, if you have one.
  • Words used in tables or graphs, including the legends, would not normnally be included.
  • If you use abstracts as part of the body of your material, then they would be included.
  • Citations, on the other hand, would not.
  • If the math equations constitute any portion of your overall content, then they would be included.
  • Section headings should be included.
  • When you mention numbers, I assume you mean numbers that are used as part of your formulas or equations, in which case they would be included.

If you make use of an appendix or a table of contents, then neither of those would be included in your word count. I would recommend creating a second copy of your document and removing the items that would NOT be included and see what your word processor comes up with for the word count. That would probably put you pretty close to where you need to be.

As far as editors,it just depends. Some may be flexible, especially if the content warrants it. Others, however, set limits as a hard and fast rule and are not willing to concede and additional space at all.

  • thank you for the advice. I wanted to ask here first before bothering the editor with a naive question. The numbers I was curious about are in the text. Sep 6, 2011 at 18:00
  • In that case, your numbers would inded count. Sep 6, 2011 at 18:08

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