Word limits and assignment length
Assignment length requirements are usually given in terms of numbers of words.
Unless the lecturer tells you that these limits are strict, it is normally acceptable to be 10% above or below this word limit (so, for example, a 2000 word assignment should be between 1800 and 2200 words). If the assignment uses the words “up to” (as in “up to 2500 words”) that usually means that you cannot go above the limit.
Use the tool below to calculate the acceptable range for an assignment (based on +/- 10%).
Unless the lecturer tells you otherwise, the word limit does not include ‘administrative’ sections of the assignment: the cover or title page, table of contents, table of figures, reference list, list of works cited, bibliography, or any appendices.
The word limit that you are given reflects the level of detail required. This means that if your assignment is too long, you're either taking too many words to explain your point or giving too many / too detailed examples. If your assignment is too short, either there is more to the answer than you have written or the assignment has not gone into enough detail about the answer.
- Don't try to remove single words from your assignment. It is unlikely to reduce the assignment's length significantly, but it may confuse your argument. Instead, aim to remove or condense whole sections of your assignment.
- You should not include something just because it is a fact, or just because it is included in your course materials. Include something only if it is relevant to your argument.
- Be direct. State your point rather than writing many paragraphs to ‘lead up’ to it.
- Go back to the question. Which sections relate to the point and which are secondary?
- Go back to the plan. Which paragraphs fit in the overall structure? Which paragraphs overlap and can be combined?
- Remove sections where you
- Over-explain your point
- Over-specify your point
- Repeat yourself
- Write off-topic or ramble
- Remove multiple examples where one or two are sufficient.
- Remove ‘hedging” language that adds little to the argument, e.g. “I think that” “it would seem that” “it is possible that”
If you are often over the word count you should look at your writing style. See writing concisely for more.
Explain your argument fully
- Make sure every argument in your head and in your plan is on the page.
- Would a general (i.e. non-specialist) reader understand your point? Have someone else read over your assignment and ask you questions about it. What do they think is missing?
- Are there gaps in your argument?
- Does each point logically follow the last one, or do you jump over important points?
Look for the ‘hidden’ answer
- What theories do you think the marker expects?
- How does this relate to the materials from lectures and study guides? Use the course information in your answer to the assignment question.
- Are there complications or contradictions in the argument or in your research? Explain them and explore them.
Flesh it out
- Define any special terminology you've used that a general reader would not be familiar with.
- Illustrate with more examples and/or quotations.
- Contextualise and explain the quotations you use. How do they relate to your argument?
Page authorised by Director, CTL
Last updated on 25 October, 2012
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Because we do Search Engine Optimization – we often have to talk about the differences between short and long-form content. 700 words have been an average blog post for a while, and 1,800 – 2,500 words has become the new number to strive for to keep people on the page longer and increase your search engine ranking. So what does 700 words look like? What do 2,500 words look like?
What do 700 words, 1,800 words, and 2,500 words look like– here are photos albeit zoomed-out.
We’re sharing a little bit of a visual indicator so you can be aware of how much needs to be written – whether you’re writing a search engine optimized article, or you’re writing a paper for school. This is single spaced in Microsoft Word, but it would likely by similar in Google docs if that’s your text editor of choice.
How many pages is 700 words, 1,800 words and 2,500 words in a Word document?
- 700 words is about 1.5 to 2 pages single spaced with a few titles mixed in (3 pages double-spaced)
- 1,800 words is about 3.5 to 4 pages single spaced with a few titles mixed in (7 pages double-spaced)
- 2,500 words is about 4.5 to 5 pages Single Spaced with a few titles mixed in (10 pages double-spaced)
So you have to write a long article or paper? How to do it:
Whether we’re talking 700 words, 1800 words, 2500 words or what have you – a long article or paper is not easy to just knock out in one go unless you’re very accustomed to writing in sprees. Use a couple key tactics to get up to these long lengths:
- Gather several resources for sources before you get down to writing
- Block out the key ideas without paying super close attention to precision at first
- Don’t hold back any valuable insights for later – give as much value, and share the best ideas in sub-headlines, bulleted lists, and support your main points with significant statistics, original research, and poignant personal stories.
- Allow yourself to create a “very rough – rough draft” first before getting too ‘in your head’ about specific details
- After you have a “very rough – rough draft” start going back and editing your writing for grammar, spelling and make sure that the ideas are cohesive and tied together by a line of thought, and key idea.
- Resolve the end of the article by re-capping the key idea and sum up the whole line of thought.
Yes, 1,800 words to 2,500 words are a lot of words, and not every article requires this kind of intensity (for instance, this is a resource post with much fewer that 1,800 words. However, if you’re trying to prove a contentious point or provide the “definitive” resource on a particular subject – all of that verbiage really does allow a lot of opportunities to support your key thought.
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