Sharing Details and Data in as Few Words as Possible
One of the many challenges of scholarly writing is finding an effective balance between keeping word counts as low as possible and reporting thoroughly and accurately the vast quantities of complex information that are usually associated with advanced research. Meeting publisher word limits and achieving a clear and concise style necessitate the first, while sound research practices and the advancement of knowledge demand the second. It is no simple matter to achieve the perfect balance by illuminating details and sharing data in as few words as possible, so a few tips may prove helpful.

• As you begin writing, try to imagine and focus on the key facts and ideas that the reader needs to know or understand. Imagine that your research processes and results are active presences in a dark room. What would require illumination so that someone walking into that room would see what you want them to see? Focus on the primary objects and issues, especially if space is very limited.
• Describing a situation (or condition or discovery) by slowly offering details builds suspense, but it also tends to drag the description out through more words than are necessary. Instead, try stating the main point clearly and concisely, using as few modifiers as possible, and then add another sentence or two to offer the remaining details. This approach usually inspires an author to include only what is needed, and a clear initial statement of what is at stake will hold the interest of an engaged reader.
• Remember a well-designed table or figure really can be worth 1,000 words and more. Reporting the detailed procedures and findings of advanced research can use up a great deal of writing space and result in prose that is rather dull or even painful to read, with the main points becoming obscured by too thick an underbrush of detail. Often this same material will be far clearer to readers and more compelling as well if it is presented in a table or figure. Do be sure to design and label tables and figures with great care, keeping in mind what your readers will need and how each table or figure will appear in the relevant publishing medium.
• If you need to use long names or terms to describe your research processes and findings, you may be able to save words by inventing shortened forms. ‘Blue light indoor under twenty group,’ for instance, might become ‘BLIUT.’ In most cases you will need to define each abbreviation on first use, but if many are used and the publisher guidelines allow it, a list of abbreviations can be provided instead, and such lists may not be included in overall word counts.
• Finally, information that bogs down an argument but may be of interest to readers can be included in notes or appendices. Footnotes and endnotes are good for smaller chunks of material, but they are usually included in publisher word counts, though endnotes are sometimes an exception. Appendices, on the other hand, can accommodate far more material and are easily applied to more than one part of a document. They are also more frequently excluded from word counts and are sometimes published as online archives associated with the main publication.