Most top impact factor ecology journals indicate a preference or requirement for short manuscripts; some state clearly defined word limits, whereas others indicate a preference for more concise papers. Yet evidence from a variety of academic fields indicates that within journals longer papers are both more positively reviewed by referees and more highly cited. We examine the relationship between citations received and manuscript length, number of authors, and number of references cited for papers published in 32 ecology journals between 2009 and 2012. We find that longer papers, those with more authors, and those that cite more references are cited more. Although paper length, author count, and references cited all positively covary, an increase in each independently predicts an increase in citations received, with estimated relationships positive for all the journals we examined. That all three variables covary positively with citations suggests that papers presenting more and a greater diversity of data and ideas are more impactful. We suggest that the imposition of arbitrary manuscript length limits discourages the publication of more impactful studies. We propose that journals abolish arbitrary word or page limits, avoid declining papers (or requiring shortening) on the basis of length alone (irrespective of content), and adopt the philosophy that papers should be as long as they need to be.

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Published in Ecology and Evolution, v. 6, issue 21, p. 7717-7726.

© 2016 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station