What To Do if You go Over the Word Limit on Essay

Most of us don’t enjoy writing and find composing a college essay hard and tedious work. Often, words don’t come easy to us and we struggle to begin writing. In parallel, there is also another side of this coin – some of us have difficulties expressing our thoughts concisely, and we tend to write too much. This is the most common problem of all beginners; however, experienced writers also have this problem.

The most obvious preventive measure against going over the word limit on an essay is careful planning. You just compose a good plan and estimate an approximate extent of your ideas and thoughts when expressed in writing. But even that is not a panacea against voluminous texts.

Cutting one’s brilliant ideas and thoughts is not an easy exercise. We intuitively think of all of our ideas and sentences as being brilliant and necessary. This is why shortening our essays’ texts is so hard.

how long essay should be

How to make an essay shorter

In any case, if you happen to go over the allowed word count limit on your essay, follow our simple techniques on how to make one’s text shorter while retaining its value and the main points.

  1. Get rid of lengthy and complex sentences. In most cases, breaking a long sentence into two parts will save you up to several words. Don’t write too long and complex sentences in your essay, especially at the very beginning and the end. Sometimes, we don’t even need to necessarily make two or three short sentences out of a long one – the sense and the key message can be often expressed with fewer words, especially with fewer adjectives and without passive voice.
  2. Use abbreviations and contractions. Your desire to explain things and convey the meaning to a wider audience is understandable. After all, not everyone may know the meaning of even the most obvious and widely spread abbreviations. However, it is enough to decipher a term, a title, or a name only once – in the beginning. After that, an abbreviation or contraction will do the job. For example:
  3. Modern Language Association (MLA), or United Nations Organization (UNO), Master of Business Administration (MBA), Chief Executive Officer (CEO), The Federal Housing Administration (FHA).

Examples of popular contractions

  • I would (I’d), you would (you’d), what are (what’re), you are (you’re), they had (they’d), what will (what’ll), she had (she’d), would not (wouldn’t), let us (let’s).

Also, instead of “for example” you can use e.g. (Latin exempli gratia), or instead of “that is” you can use i.e. (Latin id est).

  • Simplify content and meaning. Remember, that academic and business correspondence share one thing in common – simplicity. They don’t allow for redundancies, colloquial words and phrases, and in general favor clear and concise formulation of thoughts. Cutting off words in an essay, we should aim for the same.

It will be easier to realize when you take a little or a long break from writing – returning with a fresh mind you will look at your content more critically, and making simplifications will become easier.

  • Get rid of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. It’s amazing how much one can save in terms of writing space just by dropping excessive adjectives and adverbs. By default, we all tend to over-decorate and overload emotionally our thoughts on paper. This is, for instance, a common “feature” of the first drafts and texts written overnight. Reading and editing our content the next morning will enable us to spot those excessive words. For example:
  • John has been working extremely hard to deliver that tedious writing assignment by the tight deadline deliberately made hard by the demanding professor.

Here, several excessive adverbs can be easily dropped without damaging the meaning:

  • John has been working hard to deliver his writing assignment by the deadline deliberately made hard by the professor.
  • Remove extra background information and lengthy explanations. Most people cannot express their thoughts on paper concisely. They tend to make long sentences with long explanations and extra details. Reading such complex sentences is at least hard, and often they make it impossible to hold the reader’s attention for long. So, keep an eye on how much background information you are putting in each of your sentences, and minimize it wherever possible. For example, the second sentence here can be dropped:
  • When I was a kid, I enjoyed helping my grandmother around the house. That trait of mine was likely influenced by our family traditions. Later, when I was building my professional career as a medical assistant, I noticed that helping others was one of my strong sides.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes it’s hard for us to critically assess our writing, which is why we need help from outside. A fresh eye of a roommate, a relative, or someone more experienced in writing than we are, can do miracles. Professional writing agencies are also available online 24/7 and can edit and proofread one’s text for an affordable price.