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A farewell to Letters

As conventions in scholarly publishing evolve, it is appropriate to reassess the options that we provide to our authors. In this spirit, Nature Physics will soon stop accepting submissions in our Letter format.

Letters written between individual researchers used to be a mainstay of scholarly communication, and there are famous examples from Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein and many others. As journals became the primary means for scientists to showcase their work, these letters were instead sent to the editors for publication, and this grew into a premier forum for short texts that highlighted a significant result. Often a longer follow-up paper would then provide more details. At Nature Physics, we have inherited this distinction between different forms of paper, and it manifests in our two article types for primary research: the Article and the Letter. However, at the end of May, we shall stop accepting new submissions of Letters.

By way of commemoration, let’s look back on some of our favourite pieces of research that have been published as Letters in our pages. They include an explanation of LIGO’s impressive sensitivity1, the first observation of PT symmetry breaking in an optical system2, a discovery of how physical forces drive cell migration3, and the first observation of interesting band structure features in twisted graphene layers4. All are clearly ground-breaking.

There is no single compelling reason for why we choose to make this change — more of a collection of smaller motivations that suggest now is the right time. The most obvious is that the distinction has become somewhat outdated, in that it is rare for researchers to write a short paper that highlights a result followed by a more detailed text for specialists. Indeed, our editorial standards for the two formats have been identical for some time, making the distinction somewhat arbitrary.

Then there is the fact that the formatting differences between the two are confusing and arguably unnecessary at a time when the vast majority of scientific research is read online, rather than in print.

Finally, the majority of our sister journals — including Nature and Nature Communications — only publish Articles, so it will be more convenient for authors transferring their manuscript between different journals to have a single article type.

Therefore, from the beginning of June, we will have only one article type for primary research: the Article. The maximum recommended length is 3,000 words, six figures (plus ten Extended Data figures), and 50 references. But that is not to say that we expect all papers to be this long: brevity is valuable in scientific writing, and so if you can make your point clearly in fewer words and fewer figures, we strongly recommend that you do. And the transition will be gradual; any Letters that are submitted before June and are still going through the editorial process can remain in that format.

So, it is farewell to Letters, and hello to a more streamlined process here at Nature Physics.


  1. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Nat. Phys. 7, 962–965 (2011).

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  2. Rüter, C. et al. Nat. Phys. 6, 192–195 (2010).

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  3. Trepat, X. et al. Nat. Phys. 5, 426–430 (2009).

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  4. Li, G. et al. Nat. Phys. 6, 109–113 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

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A farewell to Letters. Nat. Phys. 18, 475 (2022).

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