We’ve all been there, faced with an essay assignment with a seemingly impossible word count. Either a professor limits you to too few words to really get any valuable points across, or worse—she imposes an extraordinarily high word count that would cause any writer to panic. While you may lean toward the immediate solution of padding the prose with useless words and phrases, there are other ways out of the word count dilemma.
The challenge of word count minimums is met by exercising critical thinking skills and creativity, and by committing to the art of writing. The bottom-line goal is of course to craft an essay that meets assignment demands and also matches word count, all while relaying useful details in a cohesive essay.
The Alphabet Prompt
When strategizing to increase word count, the most baseline option is to layer up modifiers—adjectives and adverbs—and to come up with synonyms for words in play for variety and momentum. Say you need a match for the word “big” (and “large” is just too obvious). Run through the alphabet to prompt your brain into conjuring more colorful options: with “A” on the tip of your tongue, you might come up with “ample.” While “B” might not yield anything useful, “C” brings you “considerable” and by targeting “G,” you have at your disposal “gigantic.” The exercise requires that you to focus on the letter itself to develop a list of words that start with that letter. It’s amazingly effective!
One way to supplement the word count of an essay is to repeat your most salient points, and this relies on the absolute right of any writer to “recycle” a particular platform. The requirement, though, is to relate the point with a fresh spin. It’s never a good idea to simply write the same phrase or sentence over and over; it is, however, really smart to re-word and paraphrase a previously stated idea, which manages two essential tasks in the end: 1) reiteration allows a writer’s thesis or position statements to emerge more clearly and, 2) repetition with alternative wording gives a bump to word count.
Rely on Your Sources
There is no better way to plump up word count in an academic essay, while at the same time legitimizing its content, than to rely more on scholarly material you’ve sourced during the research process. Quoting another scholar means credible support for a theme or idea, helping you to adequately solidify a particular point. At the same time, inserting a few lines from another writer’s published article or book enhances the overall word count of your essay, without even trying. Just think: not only do you get closer to some magical minimum, you also justify your essay’s central argument in the best way possible—by quoting compliant research available in the field.
Writing an academic essay is a manageable task with the right resources on hand, with a commitment to smart research habits, and with a toolbox full of some tricks of the trade. Although a thesaurus is a useful tool for writers, relying instead on the above pointers may yield a more convincing and compelling end result.