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Essay Length Words

Date published November 25, 2014 by Shane Bryson. Date updated: December 4, 2017

Essays are generally around 2.500 words long. Make sure that you do not write fewer words than required from you because it will seem lazy and you’re likely to be under-explaining your arguments.

Usually, you are allowed to write around 10% more than the required words, so long as your writing is compact and your argument is good. Make sure to check with your supervisor if he’s okay with you exceeding the suggested length!

Avoid filler (added words to bulk up an essay)  to reach the required number of words because this usage will always be apparent to your professor. Try to find another good point to support your thesis instead.

Is bigger better?

No. In essays, bigger is neither better nor worse. In an essay that can be 2.000-2.500 words (about 6-8 pages), for example, you should not feel obligated to hit 2.500 words. A well-argued essay that requires only the minimum length equals in quality any well-argued essay that requires more explanation.

How should I think about the suggested length?

While the word count seems like its primary purpose is to guide the length of the essay, it actually has two more-important, loosely related purposes.

First, it should help you determine how complex or ambitious your argument needs to be. If you need to go over the word count to make your argument, you’re argument is probably too ambitious, or your writing is not compact enough. If you can’t hit the minimum suggested length, you’re probably under-explaining yourself. And your argument may lack ambition—in other words, if you can fully support your argument with a paper significantly shorter than the minimum suggested length, you should make an argument that requires more support.

Second, the suggested length gives your marker a sense of how much work will be involved in evaluating the paper. This marker expectation is important, since in the mind of your marker, it’s usually vexing to realize on the eighth page of an eight-page assignment that there are still four pages left to read.

Can I exceed the suggested length?

Maybe. The best person to answer this question is your professor, but I can make a few general remarks to take into consideration.

A common guideline is that students have 10% leeway to go long: if your essay is to be 2.500 words, you are fairly safe going over the count by 250 words, so long as your writing is compact and your argument is good. It’s smart to check with your marker before you rely on this rule, though.

If you do go over, ensure that it’s absolutely necessary. If you have fluffy writing, for example, it may be the case that you could condense your paper with better writing, eliminating the need to exceed the suggested length.

Remember, any time you go over your limit, you’re imposing extra work on the person grading your paper. Some markers don’t mind the extra work, but some get very frustrated with it. It’s never wise to annoy your marker, so exercise caution.

Can I go under the suggested length?

No. The nasty truth is that, with only a few extremely rare exceptions, papers going under the suggested length appear lazy, careless, and under-wrought. Unfortunately, essays that are too short will often seem this way even if the writer has laboured with care to adequately explain the content of the essay.

Is filler obvious to my professor?

Yes. Filler usually takes the form of added words that bulk up an essay enough to hit the minimum suggested length. This is usually pretty obvious, since it often involves a series of irrelevant comments and unnecessarily wordy sentences. To a marker, one of the only things more disappointing than an essay that goes well under the suggested length is an essay that reaches the minimum length by wasting words.

If your essay’s too short, opt not to use filler, but try to find another good point to support your thesis. Rather than padding the essay with unnecessary words, add a good argumentative paragraph where it’s appropriate. While this addition will require more work, it will yield much better rewards.

What is WordCounter?

Apart from counting words and characters, our online editor can help you to improve word choice and writing style, and, optionally, help you to detect grammar mistakes and plagiarism. To check word count, simply place your cursor into the text box above and start typing. You'll see the number of characters and words increase or decrease as you type, delete, and edit them. You can also copy and paste text from another program over into the online editor above. The Auto-Save feature will make sure you won't lose any changes while editing, even if you leave the site and come back later. Tip: Bookmark this page now.

Knowing the word count of a text can be important. For example, if an author has to write a minimum or maximum amount of words for an article, essay, report, story, book, paper, you name it. WordCounter will help to make sure its word count reaches a specific requirement or stays within a certain limit.

In addition, WordCounter shows you the top 10 keywords and keyword density of the article you're writing. This allows you to know which keywords you use how often and at what percentages. This can prevent you from over-using certain words or word combinations and check for best distribution of keywords in your writing.

In the Details overview you can see the average speaking and reading time for your text, while Reading Level is an indicator of the education level a person would need in order to understand the words you’re using.

Disclaimer: We strive to make our tools as accurate as possible but we cannot guarantee it will always be so.