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Reducing word count

Here at Plant Editors, we know that sometimes you need to trim the word count of your manuscript––and many times, streamlining your text makes it easier to read too. How can you reduce the word count without making your paper hard to read?

DO: Omit needless words. Text like “the results showed that”, “are known to”, “process”, and “meanwhile” can often be deleted. Remove redundant words––two we often see are PCR reaction (=polymerase chain reaction reaction) and EMSA assay (=electrophoretic mobility shift assay assay). Look out for “was performed”, as it often adds unnecessary bulk to a sentence.

DON’T: Use contractions. Scientific writing for publication in scholarly journals has a certain level of formality. Save your contractions for social media.

DO: Spell out all gene/protein names and define all abbreviations on first occurrence (in the Abstract, then the text, and again in the figure legends). Saving those few words is not worth confusing your readers. That said, once you define an abbreviation, acronym, or initialism, use it consistently throughout. Once you define WT as wild type, do a global search for “wild type” and “wild-type” and change them to WT.

DON’T: Remove connecting words. Words like “therefore” and “conversely” guide readers through the logic of your work. 

DO: Omit needless sentences and even paragraphs. That sentence about “Plants are sessile organisms…”, and that paragraph about results not related to your main points? Try deleting them.

DON’T: Brutally shorten your manuscript for the initial submission, unless the journal requires it. Many journals (I’m thinking of the Nature journals in particular) accept manuscripts in any format for their initial evaluation. Once your manuscript gets past the first round of review, then you can make it fit the word limit. 

DO: Have your manuscript professionally edited. Reducing word count is our thing and we are here to help!