How to Write for a Specific Word Length

How to Write for a Specific Word Length

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

Writing well is a one of the most valuable skills that students can learn. This ability is important for communicating with teachers, family, employers, and others. Following specific guidelines can make the task more challenging, especially with a word count, but it is often necessary. Learning to follow these guidelines is an important skill to develop.

In school, some of your assignments might include a word or page limit. When you get your assignment back, you might find that your teacher has commented on the length or amount of repetition in your work. Learning to eliminate the extra words in what you write will help you to have greater focus and to make your points more concisely. You can also edit the paper for length and clarity, making sure that you have stayed on topic and that you have included the necessary information.

In many ways, writing for an employer can be like composing an essay for class, although the differences are sometimes greater than the similarities. Except for novelists and freelance writers, people normally have limited control over the subject matter or the length of what they are supposed to write. This can be challenging, especially for someone who becomes accustomed to one style of writing and then must adapt to another, often with a very different style and word limit.

This has also been my experience. For many years, I have been writing articles for a children’s magazine on topics ranging from beavers and polar bears to Canadian politicians to new technology. In many of these articles, my struggle is to keep the information down to three hundred words while still explaining the subject thoroughly.

Often on the same day that I write one of my school articles for young students, I might also write a piece on driving-related topics for an audience of people aged sixteen or older. With those articles, the word length is approximately one thousand, although I frequently write slightly more than the designated count.

In the school articles, my struggle is to decide what to leave out. However, with the driving articles, I often find that I have finished what I had to say when I am still just halfway to the thousand-word mark. However, I am learning to look for related points to discuss that can further explain the main idea. I just have to make sure to stay on topic.

Any extra information should support the main point. For example, an article on windshield wipers could have a section on different types of mud and dust but not about air conditioners. Just as a school essay has an introduction, supporting points, and a conclusion, these articles need structure and form. Keeping this structure in mind also helps me to stay within the word count. It can take time to search for unnecessary words or sentences, or sometimes to expand on what I already have, but the result is worth the trouble.

Learning to write for a specific word length is a useful skill. Whatever your age, you can start to develop this valuable technique.



Hicks, Ryan. “Writing an Essay or Article that Has a Word Count Requirement?”

Purdue Online Writing Lab. “Choosing a Topic.”

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Editing and Proofreading.” https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/editing-and-proofreading/

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  “Writing Concisely.” https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conciseness-handout/

Leave a comment!