How to stay within a word count limit when you write an essay

If you are the type of person who cannot put your pen down, i.e., you just keep on writing, you are going to have to be strict regarding weeding out surplus text. However, it is not an easy task. You cannot simply take out chunks until your essay is close to the recommended word count. If you do, it may lose its flow and coherence.

Word count limit image 43434343A good essay is not just a question of complying with a word count limit. Your article must be well written. I has to contain susbtance. It should also be engaging enough to maintain the reader’s interest.

Below are some recommendations that may help you.

Remove large sections first

Look at your whole piece when you have finished, and avoid taking out one word at a time. By the end of your endeavour, your word count will probably not have reduced by as much as you need.

Look at large portions first and determine which ones you could take out without undermining the whole message. Many people have the tendency to go off the point and not return to the main theme until several words or sentence later.

Start fast

Rather than sitting around and wondering how to begin, go straight into your assignment as fast as you can. You will probably find that your first paragraph says a lot without being wordy. This may get you into a ‘word-economy’ mode for the rest of your essay.

According to, some people find that if they time themselves, what they write tends to be more condensed, i.e., their material contains more substance with fewer words.

Don’t worry about grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes, which are more likely to happen if you proceed quickly. After you have finished, you can proofread it carefully.

Word count limit image
You may have to write your essay by hand.

Stick to the point

As you are going through your text, take out words, phrases, or complete sentences that stray from the main theme of your composition. They do not improve the quality of your essay and might irritate whoever has to mark it.

Check for repetition

It is human nature to repeat phrases and even whole sentence, especially when we are nervous. You may be nervous when writing a text that you know an admissions officer is going to mark.

Apart from increasing your word count, repetition can lower your overall score.

Turn passives sentences into active ones

Sentences in the passive voice are more word hungry than active voice ones. For example, look at these two sentences:

  • Researchers performed a study. (active voice)
  • A study was performed by researchers. (passive voice)

The active voice sentence above consists of four words, compared to its passive counterpart, which has six words.

Did you know that most online search engines such as Google mark down articles with more than 10% of sentences in the active voice? Overuse of the passive voice is bad for SEO (search engine optimization).

Wrapping up

We are more likely to switch off or lose interest when somebody talks for too long before getting to the point. The same applies to written texts. Using too many words to express few ideas is frowned upon by teachers, professors, newspaper editors, and college admissions officers. Even search engine logarithms don’t like it.

Remember this when you are writing your essay. Your aim is not only to stick to a word count limit, it is also to write a piece that flows, expresses your thoughts well, contains substance, and maintains the reader’s interest.

After you have trimmed your article, read through it carefully to make sure it is error-free and makes sense. Also, check that it covers everything that the admissions officer or whoever gave you the assignment requested.

According to Wikipedia, in many countries, including the United States and Canada, universities use admission essays to help them select candidates.