Meeting an essay’s required page or word count can sometimes be a struggle, especially if you’re juggling multiple papers or exams. In a pinch, students often rely on tricks like increasing margin size or making their font slightly bigger. Though these tricks do increase page length, there are easier (and smarter) ways to write a longer, high-quality essay. Making a paper meet minimum word or page counts doesn’t have to be an agonizing process—you can add length while also adding clarity and depth.
Here are 10 tips on how you can write a longer and a smarter essay, even if the deadline is fast approaching:
Tip #1: Look Back at Your Prompt/Rubric/etc.
If you’ve been provided a comprehensive prompt or rubric for an essay, read it, and read it again. Think about the following:
- Did you answer all of the questions in the prompt?
- Did you provide supporting evidence to back up whatever claims you made?
- Did you leave out any information that might increase the reader’s understanding of your argument?
- Did you meet all requirements (besides length) for the paper?
If the answer isn’t a decisive “yes” to every question on this list, go back and revise.
Tip #2: Go Back Through Your Introduction and Conclusion
Often times, ideas evolve while writing a paper. If the first thing you wrote was the introduction, go back and reread the first paragraph. You might decide that you left out key information that aids the reader in understanding your argument. When looking back on the conclusion, make sure you’ve both summarized the main points within the essay and provided your reader with a solution to consider. If you don’t feel you’ve done this, go back through and revise the paper.
Tip #3: Have Someone Proofread Your Essay
Even if you’re short on time ask a friend, sibling, or parent to read through your paper, specifically noting any points they find confusing. Then, go back and revise the parts that were unclear, adding in more information to provide readers with further clarity. You have a more comprehensive understanding of what you’re writing about than your reader, so having someone else look over your paper can be a helpful way to ensure that you haven’t missed any important details.
Tip #4: Use Quotations
Chances are, you have already used quotes in your paper. Quotations are a great way to enhance your argument while also driving up a paper’s word count, but don’t add quotes just for the sake of doing so. If you’re short on words, read through your source materials again to see if you’ve missed any valuable quotes. You can also do a little more research to see if there are any other sources you can add to provide the reader with more evidence toward your argument. Longer quotes aren’t necessarily better, but if you’re really in a bind, you might want to lengthen some of the quotes that are already included.
Tip #5: Review Your Outline
Did you make an outline to plan the essay when you first started? Go back through that initial outline and make sure you’ve hit all of your intended points. It’s possible that you’ve left out an important piece of your argument that would both increase page count and make for a better essay.
Tip #6: Include More Transitional Phrases
Graders often look for traditional words linking sentences to each other, like “therefore,” “even though”, and “on the other hand.” Read through your essay and make sure the sentences flow smoothly into each other. If they don’t, go back and add in transitional phrases like the ones listed above. Your writing will be easier to read, and you’ll get closer to the minimum page requirement in the process.
Tip #7: Read Your Paper Out Loud
This might sound like a silly tip, but when you read your paper out loud, you become increasingly aware of any grammatical or syntactical issues. When you rephrase sentences to fix these, you might end up increasing the paper length a bit. In the process of reading out loud, you also might realize that you didn’t include sufficient details within a particular paragraph. If that’s the case, go back in and add more to increase length.
Tip #8: Take a Break From Your Essay
You’ve probably been staring at your computer screen for hours, hoping words will magically pop into your head. Take a break. Eat a snack, go for a walk, or talk to a friend on the phone. You’ll come back to the essay with a fresh perspective after some time away, and you might have new ideas after you’ve had time away from your paper.
Tip #9: Ask Your Instructor for Help
Most teachers, teaching assistants, and professors are willing to look over papers for students before the final submission date. If there is still time, ask if you can make an appointment to go over your paper or head over to office hours. Your instructor might offer tips on how to better answer the prompt, and this in turn may also increase the word count of the paper.
Tip #10: Use multiple examples to back up your argument
If you’ve only used one source or anecdote to explain a given point, find a second source to provide additional evidence for the reader. This method will help drive up a paper’s word count while also providing further support for your argument.
Although hitting a minimum page count can sometimes be challenging, you can do it the smart way by increasing the information you provide to the reader—there’s no reason to resort to tricks like increasing line spacing or font size. If you’re really in a bind at the last minute, you might want to break up some of your paragraphs. This increases length while also making text more manageable for a reader. But after going through the tips on this list, your paper should be adequate in length without you having to even consider spacing.
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Skim through your essay looking for any place you have used an example to make a point. In most cases, you should be able to provide additional examples which will make your essay stronger by showing your understanding of the topic while also increasing the word count. You can also go through the essay and look for statements made where inserting an example would be appropriate to help support the statement.
Address Different Viewpoints
An effective way of increasing word count and improving your essay at the same time is to address different viewpoints to your own. You have the opportunity to discuss how these alternative viewpoints differ from the conclusions you have made, and it gives you an opportunity to explain why you believe your conclusions are superior. This shows you have considered a range of different opinions while coming to your conclusions, and in doing so make your essay stronger while adding more words.
When you find the statements in your writing, if inserting an example doesn’t make sense, then clarifying the statement may be appropriate. This can be achieved by inserting one or more specific statements to clarify the original one. A common way to do this is to follow the statement with, “In other words…” It’s important not to over-clarify statements or use this for every statement you write as it will begin to look like filler, but using it sporadically throughout your essay can increase the word count and show you perfectly understand the points you’re trying to make.
Find Additional Sources
Another way to improve your essay and increase word count is to find additional sources you haven’t previously mentioned which support the statements and conclusions you have made. The more sources you have, the stronger the essay will be in most cases. Spending some time searching for additional sources to add to the essay can be a great way to add quality content to it.
Chances are you already have appropriate quotations in your essay, and if that’s the case, skip over this suggestion. Adding more will likely not add to your essay. If you haven’t used any, however, finding appropriate quotations from experts in the field that support your statements can be an excellent way to add words to your essay while improving it at the same time.
Rework Introduction and Conclusion
If all of the above haven’t enabled you to reach your word count minimum and you need some filler, look to put it in your introduction and conclusion rather than the body of the essay. Most teachers give more leeway with the introduction and conclusion to be wordy than the guts of the essay. This is something you should try to avoid if at all possible (it’s never good to be wordier than you have to be), but if you tried everything else, it’s better to do it in these two places than in the heart of the essay.
If you’re writing an essay which has a minimum page count instead of a minimum word count, the above suggestions will work, but you have a bit more wiggle room as well. You can make slight adjustments to the font and font size you use through a Words per Page Counter. As long as you don’t go overboard, this can be a relatively easy way to increase page count while not taking away from the essay.
(Photo courtesy of Caleb Roenigk)