Every paper I assign (or write, honestly) seems governed by one terrifying set of numbers:
The word count.
The room often seems divided, with about two-thirds of the students wondering how on earth they’ll reach the minimum number, and a third wondering how they’ll ever squeeze into the maximum.
First, don’t worry about word count until you’re finished with a first draft. No sense in stressing one way or the other until you actually know where you land.
But after that … still no need to fear! Here are a couple tips to help you if you’re too far one way or the other:
If you’re too short:
- Think about other things that could support what you’re saying. You may need to add another main point.
- Are all your main points supported with research/textual evidence?
- Have you clearly explained your points and drawn conclusions?
If you’re too long:
- “Kill your darlings.” Be ruthless about saying things in two sentences you could say in one. Cut out stuff that’s more style than substance. You only have so many words to play with!
- You don’t necessarily need to use full-paragraph quotes from your sources. Use just the part(s) that you need to prove your point.
- Don’t repeat yourself.
Now get writing!