When writing an essay, there are many things to consider, but it’s often the case that the most important concern that students have is making sure that they meet the word count. It may not be the most artistic way to write a paper, but churning out enough text to hit the mandatory word count is essential to ensure that a student reaches the minimum requirements of the assignment and can qualify for full credit. Too often this results in repetition and filler as students struggle to fill the space, but it is nevertheless an essential requirement. In this article, we’ll take a look at some tips to help you make the word count when writing your next essay.
Basic Rules for Counting Words in an Essay
So where should you start to make sure your paper is long enough?
- DO use your word processor’s word count feature. Almost every word processing program automatically counts the words that you type. Watch the word counter as you type to ensure that you always achieve the right word count. You’ll want to make sure that your word processor’s word count function is set correctly, though. Some are set by default to count characters (with or without spaces) instead of words, so make sure that you have it set to display the word count rather than the character count.
- DO NOT make the font larger. Many students try to fool their instructors by using a large font or a specialty font with expanded spacing or larger width so that their writing takes up more space with fewer words. This might have been effective when papers were submitted on paper and a small difference in font size—say, size 13 instead of 12—wasn’t immediately noticeable. But with most papers submitted electronically, instructors can fairly easily see the word count and how much a student actually wrote.
- DO NOT use extra-wide margins. Similarly, the old trick of expanding the margins doesn’t help when papers are submitted electronically. While the naked eye might not see the difference between a standard 1-inch margin and a 1.25-inch margin, the automatic word counter will nevertheless reveal your real word count, so you won’t be fooling anyone.
- DO estimate how much you write. Sometimes, you are asked to write by hand, such as in a test or exam situation, and you need to know how much you are writing. When you do so, you can try to estimate how much you are writing by counting approximately ten words to the line, or around 250 words to the page. It’s not as common to have to estimate your word count today as it was twenty years ago, but it can sometimes still happen.
- DO NOT vamp. Trying to make word count can be nerve-wracking, especially when you feel like you don’t have enough to say. Don’t try to fill the page with irrelevant material or repetition. This is called vamping, and it’s a sure-fire way to weaken your paper’s argument. It’s sometimes better to turn in a paper that is good but slightly too short than to load your paper with filler that distracts from your main point.
- DO consider professional help. If you aren’t able to make your word count, an online academic essay writing service like SmartWritingService.com can provide legit professional writing help. Online expert writers can create custom papers that meet the word count and show you how a professional would approach your topic. When you see how a professional would assemble research and develop an argument, you’ll have an arsenal of tips and tricks you can use to expand your word count and create a powerful essay that meets length requirements.
- DO more research. If your paper isn’t making the word count, it’s often because you don’t have enough research to fully develop your good ideas. If you need more content in the paper, visit your college or university library to locate additional high-quality resources so you can develop more content and additional supporting points to help expand and defend your thesis.
- DO NOT simply add quotes. Many students like to try to meet the word count by filling the paper with quotes, especially long ones, to take up space and ensure they don’t have to write as much original text. This is not an effective way to meet the word count because most academic writing styles limit the amount of quoted material in a paper, typically requiring quotes to make up less than 20% of the paper. Too many quotes and there won’t be enough original content, which can negatively impact your grade.
- DO edit and revise your paper carefully. While editing is often thought of as cutting things out, editing can also involve adding material, specifically explanatory and connecting material. When you edit and revise, you’ll often find areas that are unclear or would benefit from additional explanation in order to be clear, adding words to your paper.
- DON’T give up. It can be easy to get frustrated when writing a paper, and too much frustration can make it hard to churn out enough text to fill up the page. Stay relaxed and keep your eye on the prize. When you are relaxed and in good spirits, the words will flow more easily and you’ll be more likely to write an essay that meets the length requirements.
To conclude, we hope our essential rules and tips for counting words in an essay when writing helped you a lot. Good luck with your academic writing in college and school!