Even the best writers can find themselves in this sticky situation. You’ve said what you had to say, and met all the criteria described in the task, except one – the word count.
Generally, brevity is lauded. Instructors often stress how important it is to avoid wordiness and keep it short. Many prompts urge you to explore the topic in 500 words or less. However, sometimes the criteria are ruthless: gazillion words or bust.
What can you do, if you’ve run out of arguments and time but the coveted word count is nowhere in sight? Here are some tips. Note that this post is about making your essay longer with words, aka beefing up the word count. There will be some tips on how to make your essay appear more voluminous, but be ready to work with your text.
Make Sure You’ve Said All There Is to Say
Go through the prompt, once again. Are you sure that you’ve answered all the questions posed in the task? Have you backed your argument up with all types of evidence that were required?
Look at your notes and your class handouts for additional facts and ideas you haven’t use. Maybe handouts have some tips you have overlooked or a list of articles you were encouraged to use as sources.
Finally, try the reverse outlining. Reduce your essay to the bare bones of ideas. Do you see anything lacking? Can you restructure your essay to make a place for additions, such as new ideas, or examples? Maybe an entire section won’t look out of place here?
Define All the Terms
One of the good practices of writing an essay is assuming that your audience knows nothing about the topic and explaining everything as you would to a child. That includes providing definitions to the specific terms you use in your writing or even to the everyday things if they are your topic. For example, you write about the fluctuation of the squirrel population in the forests of your state. The first thing you should do is to explain what a squirrel is. Then you should mention which climate zone your state is situated in, are squirrels common for this particular zone, etc.
You may think that this is obvious, but it may be a part of relevant background knowledge, hence it has a right to be in your essay. Moreover, it might be even required to be there.
Give More Examples
You know how the arguments go: you come up with the claim, you back it up with evidence. Then you provide concrete examples. No one said you can only give one! The more the merrier. There is a chance that your essay needs more examples! It will give more gravitas to your argument and will make it more compelling.
For example, you are writing that clinical tests detected a number of side effects. You provide the statistical data – how many patients had reported the side effect and its severity level. How about quoting some of the reports for details? Or adding anecdotal evidence to paint a vivid picture of how the symptom interferes with the patient’s normal life.
Use a Couple of Additional Quotes
No matter what you have to say, there is a chance that someone has already said it better. Quotes can be a great way to start or to conclude your essay. They are often thought-provoking and they have a certain level of authority. Also, those little rascals tend to be wordy. You should not overuse this tactic, otherwise, you risk lowering the originality score of your essay. Yet throwing in a quote or two for deeper effect will not look suspicious. Plus, then you can explain how you understand those quotes.
It goes without saying, that you should cite the sources properly. Not only it wards off any suspicions of plagiarism – it adds words to your essay, which is just the thing we are trying to achieve here.
Add Signal Words
If you are a fan of being concise, you might have left those out. However, not only do they boost the word count but also improve the flow of your essay and help your reader to navigate it.
Use phrases to signal:
- - “In the words of researchers Johnson and Rossi,”
- - “As Blaise has noted/claims/writes/points out”
- - “Thompson offers a persuasive refutation of this argument”
- - Although
- - Nevertheless
- - However
- - On the other hand
- - Yet
- - Still
- - Otherwise
- - Accordingly
- - As a result
- - At this point
- - At last
- - Consequently
- - Thus
- - Hence
- - Since
- - Therefore
You can paraphrase your own writing to make it a bit longer. For example, instead of mentioning someone by name every time you refer to them, try describing them instead, for example: wireless spokesperson, radio hosts, a man who has witnessed the incident, the mother of the child reported missing, the famous politician, etc.
Another trick is to use more nouns instead of verbs. For example, instead of “I deduced” you can say, “The result of my deduction was”.
This is a bit obvious, but we have grown so used to contractions, that many use them even in the academic style. If you have any contracted words in your paper, restore them to their former glory. This will add a few words and will look more serious and style-appropriate.
The same goes for other forms of abbreviation – spell everything out. Instead of POTUS, write “the President of the United States of America”, instead of NBA, write National Basketball Association. Again, as with definitions, it might benefit a reader who is less familiar with the subject.
Revise Your Paragraph Structure
In an essay, paragraphs usually follow the uniform pattern: topic sentence – explanation – evidence/examples – conclusion of the point. Check if all your paragraphs adhere to this structure. If your paragraph is shorter that three sentences, there is a chance it is missing some of the elements. Do not neglect to explain how the point of your paragraph is relevant to the topic. Again, it might seem obvious to you, but not so evident for the reader.
When you’ve fixed that, try adding some transitional phrases to make paragraphs smoothly follow from the previous ones.
How to Make Your Essay Look Longer
Here are some tips we have promised in the beginning, that make your essay seem longer without affecting the stats. It works if you are asked (or at least permitted to) submit your essays in print, and might not go so well if you have to upload your essay on Google Docs, where the number of words is immediately apparent and the entire text can be reformatted by your teacher after the submission. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures:
- Use slightly larger font (Cambria, Arial, Courier New) and adjust the font size (12.5 pt. or 13 pt. instead of 12 pt.)
- Enlarge periods and commas (Go to “Find” put “.” or “,” in the search field and use “find and replace” function to replace all your 12 pt. periods and commas with 14 pt.)
- Increase spacing between the lines (use 2.2 instead of 2 or 1.1 instead of 1)
- Subtly increase the right margin and the bottom margin (say, one inch and a quarter instead of one inch)
- Increase spacing between characters by 1.5 (Font -> Advanced -> Spacing -> Expanded)
- Add page numbers
These tricks only work if you don’t overdo them, otherwise, they become noticeable at a glance, even if you have your essay printed out.