ASPLOS 2023 Formatting Guidelines

For ASPLOS 2023, the program chairs decided to move away from primarily a page-based length limit to a word-based paper limit. Our goals for the formatting rules are:

  • Remove the pressure to have small figure to fit them into a small page limit (and remove small figures).
  • Limit the effort it takes to read a paper: this is largely a function of the number of words, and benefits from wider margins, larger figures, and mores spacing between sections.
  • Remove the incentive to remove useful figures in order to get more words by providing a generous page limit for figures.
  • As a side benefit, we wanted to make authors’ lives easier by removing the need to play formatting tricks to get things to fit within a tight page limit, which does not benefit readers, and instead focus on making the prose more concise, which does.

To choose a word limit, we modified the banal tool used by HotCRP for format checking to count the number of words in submissions and applied it to all ASPLOS’22 submissions. The graph below shows the distribution of lengths.

We downloaded all ASPLOS’22 submissions and used banal to count the words in all submissions. A CDF of the results is shown above. Based on these results, we set the word limit for first-draft submissions at the 80th percentile – 8800 words.

We chose a generous, but not overly generous page limit of 13 pages. From experiments, a 13-page paper with no figures is around 10,700 words, so even authors using all 8800 words should have several pages available for large figures. Our hope is that many papers don’t need to use the full 13 pages – we want to change people’s thinking from being space limited to think about the attention/effort it takes to read a paper.

One consideration we did not include is the ability to trade figures for text, as often done in journals. We didn’t have the time to modify the format checking tool to enforce this guideline, and felt strongly that authors deserved to have their papers checked accurately during submission.