Q: What does it mean if the journal requires a word count of less than 20,000 types?
Firstly, I believe by ‘types,’ you mean ‘characters.’ A character is an individual element of a word, and may be either alphabetical or numerical. Some words can also be alphanumerical, such as ‘P@ssw0rd.’ In the same example, note that there are eight characters (including alphabets, a number, and even a special character). So, based on your query, the journal requires the manuscript to be less than 20,000 characters in length. However, it is more likely that the journal mentioned that it should less than 20,000 ‘words’ rather than ‘characters,’ because if not, that would be extremely limiting for the manuscript.
Journals, whether physical or online, specify a word limit for reasons of both space and policy. With a physical journal, word count is extremely crucial due to space constraints. For an online journal too, word count is important to keep the reading time within a certain duration.
The details of the word count are provided in the author guidelines (which is perhaps where you came across it). Based on the journal, what is included and excluded in the word count may differ. For instance, front matter such as abstract and keywords (for an online journal) and end matter such as references and acknowledgments are typically not included in the word count. However, tables, figures, and captions for them are included in the count. It would be best to go through the word count details of the journal to know more. In case sufficient details are not provided on the site and the word count is of concern to you, you may consider checking this with the journal through a presubmission inquiry. Doing so will help improve the submission-readiness of your manuscript as you would be adhering to one of the key guidelines of the journal.
For more information on word count, you may refer to the following resources:
- Does the word count of a manuscript include numbered references?
- Are scientific names included in the word count for a research paper title?
All the best for your manuscript!