Just about all the advice on the first page of google about how to make an essay longer sucks. No, really. It sucks so bad I can’t believe how bad it sucks.
Most advice online tells you to do gimmicky things that will lose you marks.
How do I know? Because I read it. And me (yes, I’m a professor) and all my other professor friends would instantly mark you down for these things.
The internet constantly tells you to do things that make your writing look so, so bad. Unbelievably bad. Seriously, I can’t believe it.
So, I’ll tell you what you should not do in Part 1 (jump there now).
Then, I’ll tell you what you should do in Part 2 (jump there now).
Let’s get started!
Part 1: Don’t Do These Things!
First up are the ones that you shouldn’t do!
There’s so much crap advice on the internet. So here’s the stuff I really think you shouldn’t do.
Teachers will mark you down for all of these things. We see it all the time, and we can see these tricks a mile off.
1. Don’t add Pointless Words!
There is some really bad advice and it’s all over the internet!
‘Padding’ is what we call it when you stick extra words in a sentence just to increase your word count.
I’m going to show you exactly what I mean by padding below.
I’ve taken a sentence from earlier in this post and I’m going to show you the sentence as it is, then show it to you with padding.
Here’s the original:
“You’re going to need some new points to add to your essay. You should not try to make your sentences you’ve already written longer. You shouldn’t be trying to add in fluffy new words or saying things in a longer way.”
Here’s the padding:
“You’re going to need some new points to actually add to your essay, which actually is quite significant. You should not actually try to generally make your sentences you’ve already written longer, generally contrary to popular belief. You shouldn’t be trying to generally add in fluffy new words or saying things in a longer way, which is fairly significant.”
See all those highlighted extra words? Those phrases like “which is actually quite significant” and “generally contrary to popular belief” don’t mean anything and are going to lose you marks.
Sure, your essay might now be up to the word count. But it sucks.
Your teacher is going to read this and think “This student is a terrible writer.”
And you’ll lose a ton of marks.
(P.S. I used the Text Inflator tool to make this extra fluff. You can give it a go here: http://www.textinflator.com/)
2. Don’t Increase the Spacing Between Characters
Another really bad piece of advice is to add spacing between characters.
The way people do this is they literally go up to every word and press the spacebar another time to make the words more spread out.
It looks something like this:
Normal Character Spacing:
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
Extra Character Spacing:
“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”
It just looks dumb and hard to read. You’re not going to get extra marks for this, You’re just going to annoy your marker.
3. Don’t Increase the Line Spacing
The other way people try to expand an essay so it reaches a page count is by increasing the line spacing.
Look, just do the line spacing that’s recommended by your teacher.
That would either be 2.0 or 1.5 spacing.
That’s it. Those are your options.
If your teacher has recommended a number of pages for your essay, then the chances are they also told you how to format the piece.
Use the formatting they recommended.
If the teacher hasn’t recommended any formatting style, stick to normal margins in Microsoft Word (or whichever software you use to write an essay). You should also stick to either 1.5 or 2.0 spacing. I personally think 1.5 spacing looks more professional.
4. Don’t waste your Time Adding Long Headers
I’ve also seen that a lot of people recommend adding headers at the top of every page to add to your word count.
Usually, a header should just be the page number. That’s it. You don’t need anything else in there.
And I’ve got bad news for you: headers shouldn’t be included in the word count anyway. So, if you want to add extra words to the header, it’s not going to impact your word count anyway.
Sorry, we see through it. There’s only one way to add words to your essay: add more information.
4. Don’t increase the Font Size
Size 12 font. Size 12 font. Size 12 font.
No, not 12.5. No, not 14. It’s 12. That’s all.
While I’m here, stick to one of these font styles:
- Times New Roman
5. Don’t Repeat Yourself
If you’ve said something once, provided an explanation and given a good example or two, then move on.
I often see students re-using the same paragraph about 4 times and trying to change up the words a little bit.
You know what’s going to happen?
You’ll get comments like:
- “You’ve already said this. Can you add new details to gain more marks?”
- “Please edit your work – your piece is getting repetitive.”
And again, you’ll lose marks.
6. Don’t Plagiarize
The last and most important point on what not to do is to NOT plagiarize.
- Plagiarism is when you copy and paste other people’s work.
- Paraphrasing is the opposite: it’s when you say things in your own words.
Most students start plagiarizing when they’re overwhelmed. So, I can imagine a lot of students who don’t know what to say are tempted to copy something off the internet.
Don’t do it. You’ll run the risk of getting caught and failing your course. And you’ll get a terrible reputation amongst the teachers.
Here’s how to avoid plagiarism:
- Never copy and paste.
- Take notes in bullet points only (not full sentences).
- Go 5 minutes between reading the source and writing about what it said.
- Write your paragraphs based on bullet point only, not by re-reading the source text.
See here for a full guide on how to paraphrase.
Part 2: What to Do to Make it Longer and Gain Marks
The next 15 points in this post are the most important ones. They’re all the points I recommend you follow in order to increase your word count while also gaining marks.
7. Make sure you Included Everything
I can’t tell you how many of my students submit assignments and forget to include important points!
Go back to your writing prompt. That’s the thing that you’re going to be marked on.
A writing prompt may also be called:
- Essay Question
- Marking Rubric
- Marking Criteria
Go and check out exactly what your teacher asked you to write about. Did you write about every point they suggested? Double check.
I always suggest to my students that they print out the essay prompt and put it next to them when editing their work.
Then, when you think you have answered each question and sub-point, cross it out or tick it off to show that you’ve answered it.
Think you have sufficiently answered each point? Good. Let’s move on to the next point, then.
8. Make sure Every Paragraph is at least 4 Sentences
Scan over each paragraph.
Do you have any paragraphs that are less than 4 sentences long?
This is your low-hanging fruit. You need to make these paragraphs longer.
The best paragraphs should be 4 – 7 sentences long.
If you’ve got a 1, 2 or 3 sentence paragraph, look back through it. What points can you add? Maybe you can:
- Add a sentence at the start of the paragraph explaining what the paragraph is about;
- Add a sentence giving a real-life example of the points you’re trying to make
- Add a sentence giving an explanation of your points.
Or, you can try adding points explaining:
- Why the thing is true;
- Where the thing happened;
- How the thing happened;
- When the thing happened.
Is every sentence between 4 and 7 sentences long? Okay, good. Let’s try the next point.
9. Define your Key Terms
It’s crazy how often my students forget to do this!
What is your essay about? Is the topic ‘cars’ or ‘Einstein’ or ‘History of Rome’ or … what? What’s your topic?
Okay, now have you defined it?
You should have a paragraph or two right after your introduction defining and explaining what your topic is!
If your topic is cars, tell me what a car is! Show your marker how much you know about cars. Heck, get a clear definition of “car” in there for your maker to see.
If your topic is Einstein, tell me – who is he? What’s his nationality? When was he born? What was a major event in his life? Define him – make sure your reader knows exactly who he is before you start zooming-in on his various theories and ideas.
If your topic is Rome, tell me about it – where is it? When was it founded? What language is spoken there? Tell me about it as if I’ve never heard of it in my life.
Now, if you are going to provide a definition for a term in college or university level writing, you need to read this post. In it, I show you how to write a full paragraph that defines a term in the right way (hint: it’s not using a dictionary!).
10. Create a List of 10 New Points to Add
You’re going to need some new points to add to your essay. You should not – definitely should not – try to make your sentences you’ve already written longer. You shouldn’t be trying to add in fluffy new words or saying things in a longer way.
You’ll lose marks trying to make your sentences longer. And your teacher can see through it immediately. Your teacher will roll their eyes and think you’re an idiot. Don’t do it. Instead, I recommend this:
I recommend creating a list of 10 more new points to write about.
This is going to require some work.
In the next few points, I’m going to give you the top places you can find these 10 new ideas for your essay.
These sources include:
- Your class handouts;
- Your teacher;
- The Library;
- Quora (see next few points for how to use each of these sources_
Once you’ve gathered your new ideas, we’ll turn them into full paragraphs.
11. Get new Ideas from your Class Handouts
Your teacher should have prepared you well for your essay. They should have given you good ideas to discuss and good examples to use.
So, what did your teacher give you to help you prepare for your essay?
Did they give you any:
- Handouts or worksheets in class?
- Readings or articles that they asked you to read?
- Lecture slides?
These are the sources that you should go back through to add new ideas.
They’re your most important sources. Especially lecture slides, if you’re a university student.
Go through all these sources and try to take down and more key points you can add. For now, just write each point in bullet points. You can turn them into full paragraphs once you’ve found all 10 of your key points.
12. Get new Ideas by Emailing your Teacher
Another way of getting fresh ideas for making your essay longer is to email your teacher. Or, you can ask them for more advice between classes.
Just be genuine and let them know you’re really struggling. Say something like:
“I’m currently writing my essay and I’ve come up with the following points: X, Y and Z. I know I need more points to add, but I can’t think of any more. I was wondering if you can give me some advice or point me in the right direction?”
By showing them that you’ve already made an effort and put together some ideas, you’ll show your teacher that you’ve made an effort.
Teachers are more likely to give you help if you show you’ve made an effort to start with.
A secondary thing you could do is send your teacher one paragraph and ask them how you could improve it.
Teachers usually say they won’t read over drafts via email. And for good reason – we only have so many hours in the day.
But if you send a paragraph and embed it within the email (not as an attachment) you’re still likely to get a little advice from them.
13. Get new Ideas from Friends
You will have many classmates working on the same essay as you.
What ideas have your friends come up with? See if you can find out.
I recommend being strategic about this.
Your friends aren’t just going to give you something for nothing.
So, maybe you can:
- Offer to look over each others’ work and give suggestions;
- Trade key points in bullet point format;
- Brainstorm together to create a master list of key ideas.
Here, you want it to seem like you’re working to help each other out. You don’t want to be a sponge, taking from them and not giving back. Help each other out so you both get better marks.
14. Get new Ideas from the Library
Of course, read more!
This is really the heart and soul of what you need to do. If you haven’t got enough ideas, then you haven’t done enough research.
Go and grab some books from the library and have a browse through them. Can the books give you some more points or ideas to add?
The great thing about library books is that they’re so much easier to read than academic articles found on Google Scholar.
So, head to the library – it’ll really pay off if you want to get good ideas for higher marks.
15. Get new Ideas from Blogs
If the library isn’t an option, you can try out websites and blogs online.
There are webpages online about just about every topic that you can possibly imagine. That includes the topic you’re writing your essay on!
Let me ask you a question: Why would you waste your time trying to add padding to old sentences when you can write new ones that will win more marks?
So, go onto google and get new ideas!!
It’s really so simple – google your essay topic or question and see what comes up. What have other people said on the topic? What ideas can you grab from others and use for yourself?
Take those ideas and add them to your list. You’ll be able to turn them into paragraphs in your own words later on.
16. Get new Ideas from Quora
Quora is such a great resource. I strongly recommend that you get yourself a Quora profile!
Quora is a website that you can use to ask people questions and you usually get a ton of answers from pretty good experts on the topics.
All you’ll need to do is as your essay question. Say something like:
“Hi, I have an essay question. I need to come up with ideas for the topic: [Your topic here]. Can you give me some ideas?”
People who have answered similar questions to yours in the past will get an email. They will be asked to respond. They will usually respond within 24 to 48 hours with a ton of good points you can add to your essay.
How great is that idea!
17. Turn each New Idea from your List into a 4-Sentence Paragraph
If you’ve used the ideas from Points 5 – 10, you should now have a good list of new ideas to add to your essay.
Here’s how you should add them to the essay:
Each point should be one paragraph. Use the TEEL paragraph structure to turn those bullet points into a 4-sentence paragraph:
- Topic Sentence: The first sentence of your paragraph should be a topic sentence. It should say clearly exactly what your point is.
- Explanation Sentence: Your explanation sentence gives some more detail about the topic. What more can you say to show your depth of knowledge about the point?
- Example Sentence: Give a real-life example. How does this point relate to real life? What personal story might you be able to add?
- Link Sentence: Your last sentence should show how the paragraph links to the essay question. You can start it like this: “This point shows how…” and then explain its relevance to the topic question.
18. Use the Keep Writing Website
This website is a really smart idea!
Keep Writing is a website where you can write your essay. But, it won’t let you delete anything. So you have to just keep on typing.
What this means is that you can just write ideas that roll off the top of your head with the premise that everything you write is worthwhile.
I gave this website a go to write this article you’re reading right now and it really did help me just write in a way that flowed nicely.
I must admit. After using the website, I copied the text and did some edits. But by that point I had a ton of words in there – more than enough – and I could shorten the essay by deleting the words that weren’t so good.
I ended up having the opposite problem – too many words!
Here’s the link to that website: http://keepwriting.boxjar.com/
19. Include one new Example in Each Paragraph
Another thing you can do is go through each and every paragraph and add one more example.
Even if you’ve included one example in each paragraph, that’s okay. You can still add more examples. In fact, teachers love to see examples.
Good examples are what separates good and bad students.
Here’s why teachers love to see examples: you can only give examples if you understand the topic.
So, when we see examples we go “Yes!” You Got It! You understand it!
So you can’t use too many examples.
If you’re still short on words after the first 12 steps, go back through and add another example to each of your points to add more words and win more marks.
Let me tell you: if you’re wasting time turning “15” into “fifteen” to get an extra 6 characters into your essay or sticking “It is understood that the fact that…” at the start of sentences to add words, you’re stuffing up. You’re flushing marks down the drain.
Stop adding padding. Start adding examples.
20. Find 5 more References
Teachers love to see that you’ve used a lot of different sources to write your essay.
Another bonus is that the more you reference, the more words you’ll be stuffing into that essay!
So, go and get 5 more references.
Now, if you’re a college or university student, you’ll need to use academic or ‘scholarly’ references.
These would be:
- Journal Articles
Notice here I didn’t saw ‘blog posts’ or ‘websites’? Notice how I didn’t say ‘Google it and choose the first source you find on google’?
(If you want to know what the 7 best types of sources are, check out this post.)
Here’s how to find quality references:
- Use your library: Anything you find in you’re library, you can cite. It’s been pre-approved. Plus, textbooks are easy to read.
- Use your University Online Catalogue: This is going to find you journal articles. Simply type in the keywords for your essay and a ton of options will pop up that you can cite.
- Use Google Scholar: This isn’t normal google. It’s Google for uni students (access it here: https://scholar.google.com). Use it! It’s amazing. You can type in keywords and there’s even a ‘Cite’ button for each source and it’ll create a citation for you so you can drop it into your essay! It’s too easy!
Now, how much referencing is good?
Here’s my advice:
Reference twice per paragraph. Once in the first half and once in the second half of the paragraph.
21. Get your work Checked by a Tutor!
No, I don’t mean pay someone to write it for you.
I actually mean get someone to look at your work and tell you how to improve it.
You’ll nearly always have a tutor tell you to add or change a thousand things. They’ll really help you to improve your work for this one essay.
But more importantly, they’ll show you strategies to improve in the long run.
Getting A Tutor is the #1 thing you can do to become a better student.
So, if you’re on this post looking for advice on how to make your essay longer, you’re probably going to benefit a lot from a tutor to show you step-by-step how to improve your work and get it up to the standard a teacher expects.
There’s a few ways to get an essay tutor, but here’s the ways I recommend:
- Find a local tutor. Look around on noticeboards at your university or school;
- Ask your teacher if they can link you with a tutor.
And then there’s the online tutor option.
It’s surprisingly hard to find legitimate tutors. The internet is just full of sleazy, spammy companies that write essays for you. These are going to get you in a ton of trouble. They’re unethical. They’re wrong. They suck. They do a bad job.
Can you tell how much I hate them?
So here’s a few actually legitimate and helpful study tutoring sites. I’ve vetted these and recommend them to my own students at my university: