A friend recently had a paper provisionally accepted at a journal, but as part of the acceptance she was given an unusual choice:
Either I cut 400 words (perhaps at random), or you cut 600 words.
My friend says she’s already cut the paper considerably as part of her R&R* and that the paper is right now around 12,000 words, so we are talking a 5% cut if she chooses to cut the paper herself and a 3.3% cut if she lets the editor do it. My guess is that the editor assumes she’ll choose to cut the paper herself, and in fact might just be posing the choice facetiously (that the editor would offer this choice is kind of a cute connection to the substantive content of the paper, but I can’t say more about that without risking identifying people).
Benefits of letting the editor make the cut include:
1. If you already feel like a paper has been cut to its intellectual bone, 5% is not a trivial cut and so will take time. Plus, myself, by the time a paper has reached this point I have no interest in reading it over again, so it will be non-enjoyable time.
2. The editor cares about the quality of his journal, and so the threat to cut randomly is obviously empty. If the editor is a good writer, the cut might actually be of better quality than if the author did it, especially since the editor has a more detached perspective on the paper.
3. Even if the editor and author were of equal facility in cutting the paper, those extra 200 words would seemingly give the edge to the editor. (Granted, interests aren’t fully aligned here, and so the editor may be less likely to make the cuts in ways that have less effect on the physical length of the paper–namely the endnotes and references, which presumably are printed smaller than the main text.)
So, she hasn’t asked for Scatterplot’s advice, but what would you do?
* For those less experienced with the ways of the academy, R&R stands for Revise and Resubmit. Some journals take it as a matter of pride that practically nothing gets into their journal without being first rejected but given the opportunity for revised resubmission, which has some clear inefficiencies for the pace of overall knowledge production in a discipline that maybe I’ll go off on in a later post.