How to Shorten an Essay: Reduce Word Count but keep Points

When writing an essay, you may need to shorten your essay by reducing its word count to the number required by your instructor. In this case, you might have some words that you need to get rid of in the essay. Also, you may have to shorten the paragraphs.

Read on for a comprehensive guide 7 ways how you can shorten your essay but still make the points you intended to keep in the paper. If you need help to shorten your essay, just get in touch with our

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How Do I Make My Essay Shorter

It is possible to make your essay shorter or reduce the word count to meet the requirements during the editing process. The editing process should be the last step in writing your essay. The following are some of the most effective techniques for making your essay shorter.

When it comes to coming up with essays, there are two types of students; those who write beyond the word count and those who write below the word count.

For those who write beyond the word count, there are some simple techniques you can use to make an essay shorter.

1. Rank your Arguments’ strengths and weakness

The first technique of making your essay shorter is by ranking your arguments. If your essay is longer than the requirement, rank the points used to support your arguments.

Use Strong Arguments only

A good essay should contain only the strongest and most valid points.

If you find that some of your supporting points are weak, eliminate them while still removing the unnecessary wording.

Students will often be tempted to present a multifaceted point of view to support a single point.

While this may demonstrate your knowledge in the subject, it will add unnecessary content to your essay.

To avoid this and reduce the essay’s length, carefully select the most relevant and strongest points.

However, if you still want to include all the points, then you can minimize the details, especially within weaker points. This will make your essay shorter.

2. Focus on the Main Point of your Essay

This is a very practical technique for making your essay shorter. When given an essay to complete, the instructor expects you to come up with a topic and support it throughout your essay.

Focus on Essay's Main Point

The topic and the thesis statement should be supported by valid arguments within each paragraph of your essay.

Therefore, if your essay is longer than recommended, look for sentences or entire paragraphs that do not address or support the main point or topic of your essay.

Students may find themselves accidentally going out of topic and including other unnecessary wordings and arguments to make their essays appear “smarter” or well-written. This can result in unnecessary words and sentences that go beyond the required word count.

If you identify such unnecessary arguments within your essay while editing, eliminate them so that you can focus more on your main point, and achieve the target word count.

3. Eliminate the use of Verbiage

You should eliminate the verbiage if you want to make your essay shorter. This is especially relevant when writing academic essays where you are required to present your arguments professionally and straightforwardly.

Eliminate any extra information or words that do not add value to your point or overall argument. Such verbiage are some of the weak words to avoid in writing essays and research papers.

Here, you can eliminate unnecessary adjectives, adverbs, generalizations, clichés, and lengthy verb phrases. You can do this while performing the first and second techniques mentioned above.

4. Write Short Sentences using the Active Voice

As we have noted, academic essays will require you to present your arguments straightforwardly. Using the active voice while constructing your sentences will help you achieve this while keeping them brief.

Use short sentences to shorten essays

While this may not apply to all sentences within your essay, try to begin most of your sentences using the subject.

The subject, in this case, is the thing or person performing an action. This should be followed by the action the subject performs.

If you use the passive voice where you describe how the object is acted upon, then your sentences will be longer and contribute to the unwanted length of the essay.

For example, take a simple sentence like, “John plays basketball regularly”.

This sentence is in the active voice because John (subject) performs the action of playing basketball (object).

Now take a sentence like, “basketball is regularly played by John”. The second sentence is in passive voice because it describes how the object (basketball) is acted upon.

The first sentence in the active voice is made up of 4 words while the second sentence in the passive voice is made up of 6 words. Therefore, you can see that writing in the active voice shortens your essay.

5. Utilize the most Applicable Strong Verbs

This may seem obvious, but many students are not able to find the most applicable verbs. They find those that are close instead of using the perfect verb.

If you want to make your essay shorter, find the best verb that brings out a clear meaning.

apply strong verbs to shorted paragraphs

This is because when you use an imperfect verb, you will end up using more words to clarify the meaning.

Here is an example to clarify what is meant by using the most applicable verb:

“John’s team defeated the opposing team by several points.”

Using the word “defeated” in the above sentence is not grammatically wrong. However, it is not the best verb to use because John’s team not only defeated the opposing team, they all defeated them by several points.

If you wish to reduce the word count while maintaining the same meaning, you can use the verb “trounce” in place of “defeat”. The new sentence will be:

“John’s team trounced the opposing team.”

6. Quote from most Relevant Sources

In academic essays, you may be required to provide quotes from secondary sources to support your essay. The number of sources needed depends with the length of the paper. For instance,

writing a 4-page paper may require more

secondary sources than a 2-page paper.

However, if you find that you have used several quotes that are lengthening your essay, retain quotes from secondary sources that are most related to your topic, and eliminate the rest. Again, only cite the sources that are most relevant to your topic.

7. Avoid Block Quotes

The best way to avoid longer essays is by avoiding direct quotations from other authors. This can be done by paraphrasing their content and just citing the sources, without using many words.

By avoiding block quotes, you will not only make the paragraphs short but also make your arguments more captivating to the reader. Therefore, completely avoid using essay generators or sentence generators, as these will quote other sources.

However, note that when writing an essay, it is always advisable to use external sources to support your points and arguments. Such supporting content is important for the grades and also to back up your claims.

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Weak Words to Avoid in Writing an Essay

Now that we have explored the most applicable methods or techniques that can help make your essay shorter, it is important to identify the unnecessary things to avoid in an essay to avoid going beyond the word count.

1. The passive voice

As we have noted, the passive voice makes your sentences unnecessarily lengthy. On the other hand, the active voice makes the sentences more compelling and clear because they are straight to the point.

Consequently, the active voice uses lesser words compared to the passive voice. Therefore, it is important to avoid the passive voice in an essay.

2. Adverbs and Adjectives

While adjectives modify nouns while adverbs modify verbs, good and well-utilized words in a sentence do not require modifying.

In most cases, adjectives and adverbs weaken strong nouns and verbs, thus weakening your overall writing. Such weak words add no value to your paragraphs and you need to avoid then in writing an essay.

When editing your essay and you find adverbs that have “ly” as their endings, you can eliminate them because they act as filler words that add no value to the point you are trying to communicate.

When it comes to adjectives, they do not add meaning to the sentence and therefore they are unnecessary.

3. Conjunctions

Conjunctions such as and, or, however, but, and e.g. connect two different sentences that can be written independently. They unnecessary when you want to make an essay shorter.

These are some of the words that make

an essay ridiculously long

and creates the need to be precise. Eliminating them reduces the word count and shortens the essay.

4. Running starts and needless transitions

Running starts are commonly used phrases that act as an introduction to the sentence. They include “it is”, “there is”, “the fact that”, and so on. This is basically the opposite of what we discussed in our post on

making an essay longer

as we outlined.

Those phrases add unnecessary words to your essay. Needless transitions can be “furthermore”, “then”, indeed”, “however”, and so on.

The bottom line is that when you are told to write a specific number of pages or meet a particular word count, it is imperative to meet the requirements because you will lose some points.

5. First-Person Language

This is a common thing in any essay writing task. It is always advisable that one should avoid using first-person language when writing an essay. This is because first-person is not formal and tends to be confrontational.

Instead of first-person, or second-person language, always use a third-person approach. While this does not contribute i reducing the word count, it gives a lot of formality in your essay and puts a warm reading tone.

In addition, using third-person promotes the objectivity of your arguments by presenting them in a manner that can relate to any person, in this case, your readers. Read our guide on

how to avoid the first-person language in an essay

and apply that in your future writing.

If you follow the above tips, it will be easier to shorten your essays.

Watch this video to learn more on this.

YouTube video