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5 Best ways to Make an Essay Shorter

If you are like me, you will find that you often struggle to stay within the word count in your essays.

In this article, I will show you exactly how to reduce your word count in your essay.

How to make an essay shorter

If you go over the word count in an essay, there are some strategies to make your essay shorter that make sure you keep your marks high and, sometimes, make them even higher.

The trick to going over the word count is seeing this as a positive: you now have the chance to only present your absolute best arguments.

This is a luxury other students in your class just don’t have. Reducing your word count is actually your chance to get even further ahead!

The best essays have no dull, irrelevant or sub-par content. Every paragraph is on-point and designed to win you more and more marks. When editing your work, keep this in mind.

Below, I introduce five important strategies that will help you to reduce your word count in a way that will actually increase your mark!

  • Delete your three Worst Paragraphs. …
  • Listen for Weaknesses using Google Translate or Microsoft Excel Read-out-Loud.
  • Re-Read the Marking Criteria.
  • Shorten Paragraphs over 7 Sentences Long.
  • Delete Irrelevant Words.

1. Delete your three Worst Paragraphs

I usually aim to go over my word count intentionally so I can creatively make the essay shorter in a way that increases my marks.

If I go over the word count, I can look back over my piece and find my worst performing paragraphs and remove them.

This not only helps me to ensure I present my best work to the teacher, it also forces me to admit that some of my writing is better than others. It keeps me critical of myself and always aiming for improvement.

Removing the worst paragraphs of an essay also ensures there are less boring, pointless or unanalytical sections of an essay. It means that the paragraphs I submit are the best sections – and that the teacher will be impressed throughout the piece.

To assess which paragraphs are best and worst, I do the following things:

  • Find the paragraphs with the least or worst references in them. Teachers will scan over a paragraph to assess the quality of the references in them. Paragraphs with minimal referencing, too much referencing of just one source, or only references to non-academic sources, instantly get marked down by the teacher before they’re even read. These are also often the paragraphs that provide the least depth of information. That is because finding sources to reference in a paragraph often leads to adding detail that the source has provided.
  • Find the paragraphs that are least convincing. When I re-read my paragraphs, sometimes I just think ‘the argument here is my weakest’. These are the ones I want to cut: they’re ones that won’t get me top marks. Teachers will lower your marks for any paragraph that doesn’t shine – so you’re best removing it.
  • Rate your paragraphs out of 10. I often tell my students to delete their three worst paragraphs and they say ‘I like all of them!’ In this case, you will have to get brutal with yourself: rate every paragraph out of 10. This will help you make the hard decisions about which to lose.
  • Combine two paragraphs into one. Sometimes I really like one sentence from a paragraph but don’t like the rest. If this is the case for you, have a go at extracting those good sentences from one paragraph and placing them in another one. Then, you can delete the not-so-good sentences from the original paragraph. If you do this, make sure all paragraphs still cohere around one key point.

2. Listen for Weaknesses using Google Translate or Microsoft Excel Read-out-Loud

Google Translate and Microsoft Excel both have read-out-loud options. Google Translate’s option is the easiest.

For Google Translate, simply search for ‘Google Translate’ on your internet search engine (or just click here ) to access it. Then, copy and paste the text into the translate box and press the ‘listen’ button:

screenshot of the google translate widget

For Microsoft Excel, you will need paste the whole essay into any cell and then activate the read out loud option.

This procedure is somewhat more complicated than Google Translate, but if you want to give it a go, you can get instructions from the Microsoft help website and go from there

Hearing your paper read out loud back to you can help you to identify which paragraphs or sentences are worth removing.

Here are some things to keep in mind while listening to the computer read your paper out loud to you:

  • If a sentence feels like it’s too long and exhausting to listen to, you can bet your teacher will be exhausted, too;
  • If a phrase seems awkward to hear, it will be awkward to read;
  • If the paper seems to have lost its focus on the topic area, you’ll need to remove that section or edit it to ensure it links to the essay question.

Pause the read-out-loud each time you find a sentence long or awkward and work on shortening it.

Too often, students think long, complicated sentences with fancy-sounding words will get them marks. In reality, it’s the opposite.

Being able to describe complex concepts in a very easy, understandable way is a skill all top students learn to master.

The read-out-loud option can help you to see your paper from your marker’s perspective. Use it to your advantage and listen out for anything that sounds complicated, confusing, awkward or exhausting. Delete it or shorten it immediately.

Remember, the goal is to have your paper sounding short and clear.

3. Re-Read the Marking Criteria

When editing your work, it is best to have the marking criteria by your side at all times.

The marking criteria is the list of things the teacher is looking for when marking your essay. Sometimes it’s also called:

  • Marking Criteria;
  • Indicative Content;
  • Marking Rubric;
  • Learning Outcomes

These should be easy to find. Go to your course webpage (usually on Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle depending on your university) and find where your teacher has provided details about your assessment. If there are marking criteria, this is where it would be.

Sometimes, teachers don’t provide marking criteria.

If the teacher has simply provided an essay topic or question, that means the chances are they don’t have a list of outcomes they are marking your piece against. In these instances, you will have to simply rely on the essay question.

When you have your marking criteria or essay question by your side, read each paragraph then look back to your marking criteria.

You need to ask yourself:

  • Does this paragraph directly answer the essay question or marking criteria?
  • Does this paragraph add new information that helps me answer the essay question?

If your paragraph is not linked directly to the essay question or marking criteria, you’ve just identified the paragraph you need to remove to reduce your word count.

4. Shorten Paragraphs over 7 Sentences Long

Teachers hate long paragraphs. Teachers are just like you and me. They get bored very fast.

Chances are, any paragraph over 7 sentences isn’t being fully read. The teacher might have only read the first three sentences and made their judgement about your work based on those three sentences!

That’s why the ideal paragraph should be between 4 and 7 sentences long. This length helps to ensure:

  • You haven’t gone off on a tangent;
  • You have provided some explanatory or example sentences, but not too many;
  • You have focused only on one key idea in the paragraph.

Your paragraphs that are more than 7 sentences long will be your low-hanging fruit for reducing your word count. Read through each of these paragraphs and try to find a way to reduce it to only 6 sentences. Find those sentences that seem to drag on or add nothing useful to your discussion and delete them.

By reducing all paragraphs over 7 sentences long, you won’t only bring your word count down. You will also make your essay much clearer and easy to read.

In this way, you’re both reducing your word count and increasing your mark.

5. Delete Irrelevant Words

Going through your paper and deleting irrelevant words can often save you several hundred words and could shorten your essay enough to get you back within the required word count.

Irrelevant words are words that are overly descriptive, redundant, too emotive, or in first-person. These words tend to get the same point across in far more words than necessary.

Furthermore, you will find that in removing overly descriptive, redundant, emotive and first-person words, your work will be much improved.

This is because academic writing is supposed to be formal and direct. Writing too many words can make your marker think you have poor communication skills and do not understand academic writing requirements.

Check below for examples of how to reduce your word count by removing overly descriptive, redundant, overly emotive and first-person language.

  • Overly Descriptive: The amazing thing about the industrial revolution was that it brought about enormous changes to the ways people transported themselves and communicated across the globe in such a short amount of time.
  • Alternative: The industrial revolution brought about rapid changes in transportation and communication globally.
  • Redundant: The sum of five hundred dollars.
  • Alternative: $500
  • Redundant: It was quite unique.
  • Alternative: It was unique.
  • Redundant: It was triangular in shape.
  • Alternative: It was triangular.
  • Too Emotive: The disgusting thing about communism is that it refuses to allow poor everyday people to improve their lives by creating their own businesses that might flourish and really help our their communities, too!
  • Alternative: Communism prevents citizens from starting businesses that can help bring people and their communities out of poverty.
  • In first Person: In summary, I believe that the Industrial Revolution was good for the whole world.
  • Alternative: In summary, the Industrial Revolution was good for the world.
  • In first Person: This author argues that Thomas Edison was the greatest mind of his time.
  • Alternative: Thomas Edison was the greatest mind of his time.

Making your essay shorter can sometimes be an absolute nightmare.

By following the above five steps, you can find easy ways to reduce your word count while also improving your work.

If you are an advanced or ambitious student, you might find that you always go over the word count. This isn’t necessarily a problem.

Try to look at going over the word count as a positive thing. Going over the word count means you have the freedom to only present your best work. You have the chance to delete anything that isn’t absolutely focused on gaining you marks.

In the end, your final submission will be cleaner, easier to read and easier to mark. Hopefully, this will see your marks growing even more!

Let’s review one more time the five top ways the best students reduce their word count in an essay:

Five Top Ways to Make an Essay Shorter

  • Delete your three Worst Paragraphs
  • Use Google Translate or Microsoft Excel to Read your Paper out Loud
  • Re-Read the Marking Criteria
  • Shorten Paragraphs over 6 Sentences Long
  • Delete Irrelevant Words


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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  • Writing Tips

Top Tips for Decreasing Your Word Count

Top Tips for Decreasing Your Word Count

4-minute read

  • 3rd July 2022

Cutting your academic writing down to meet a specific word limit can be tricky – sometimes more so than writing the essay itself! But don’t panic, you don’t have to start from scratch. There are some quick fixes that can help you get your word count down.

Below are our top tips for students who need to decrease their word count.

Look Out for Wordiness

It can be tempting, particularly in academia, to be wordy in your writing. Whether it’s intentional or not, most of us are guilty of this at some point.

To reduce your word count, look out for wordy sentences. If you can say the same thing in fewer words, make the change. Here’s an example:

Wordy: By far the most important aspect of this study to take into account is the way in which the participants responded to the final course of hair loss treatment.

Not wordy: The most important takeaway is how the participants responded to the final course of hair loss treatment.

Not only does reducing wordiness help decrease the word count, but it also makes your work easier to read and understand.

Eliminate Redundancy

One common source of wordiness is redundancy. This means using two words when one will do. Take the following sentence, for example:

Participants were then subjected to an unexpected surprise task.

Here, the phrase “unexpected surprise” involves a redundancy: i.e., Since a surprise is by definition unexpected, adding “unexpected” here doesn’t tell us anything. And this means we can cut “unexpected” without losing anything from the sentence.

Other common redundant phrases include “past history,” “consensus of opinion,” and “end result.” Keep an eye out for phrases like these so you can remove any redundant terms.

Watch Out for Nominalizations

Another common source of wordiness is nominalization . This refers to describing an action using a noun and a verb when a verb alone would work. For instance:

We conducted an investigation into the effect of sleep deprivation on memory.

Here, “conducted an investigation” is a nominalization comprising a verb (“conducted”) and a noun (“investigation”). But there is a verb form of “investigation” we could use instead:

We investigated into the effect of sleep deprivation on memory.

This simple switch immediately removes two words from the sentence. If you need to reduce the word count in a document, look out for places to make changes like this.

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Use Fewer Modifiers

Cutting back on modifiers such as adverbs and adjectives can be a good way to reduce the word count in a document. For example:

The whole experiment was massively impacted by the weather.

Here, while “whole” and “massively” do emphasize the extent of the impact described, they’re not essential to the meaning of the sentence. We could therefore rephrase more concisely and say:

The experiment was impacted by the weather.

Another one to look out for is “very.” A lot of the time, this can be cut as shown above. But you can also often change the word being modified to remove the need for the “very” in the first place.

For instance, while you might be tempted to say “very hungry” or “very happy,” you could look for a single term that communicates the same idea in each case (e.g., “famished” or “delighted,” respectively).

The key is to consider whether the modifying term is essential to the meaning of the sentence. If not, then it can usually be removed. If so, think about whether there is a single word that would express the same idea more concisely.

Use the Active Voice

Another great tip for reducing your word count is to use the active voice where possible.

People are often encouraged to use the passive voice in academic writing because it can give your work an objective, scholarly tone. But it can also be wordier than the active voice. For instance:

The recall task was then completed by the participants.

This sentence is in the passive voice because it foregrounds the task (i.e., the object of the action) over the participants (i.e., the people performing the action). But it would be more concise to phrase this in the active voice, placing the participants first in the sentence:

The participants then completed the recall task.

Looking for places to rephrase in the active voice throughout your work can therefore help to reduce the overall word count.

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Word Counter Blog

How to Reduce Your Essay Word Count

reduce essay word count

When it comes to writing essays, there are two frequent issues that arise; the word count is either too low or too high for the stated range of the essay. For those who perpetually end up with too few words, you need to figure out ways to increase your essay word count . For those who frequently find themselves with too many words on the page, there are some simple steps to take when editing to help reduce the number of words while at the same time making it a stronger piece of writing. Below are some suggestions to do this.

Rank Your Arguments

If you find you’re well above your word count maximum, the first step is to rank the points you use to substantiate your argument. By ranking the importance of the arguments you make in the essay, you can eliminate ones which aren’t as important as others, keeping the essay strong while removing large portions of writing. If you don’t want to eliminate any of the points, you can still reduce word count by mentioning all the arguments, but not writing as much detail about those not as strong as the more important points.

Focus on the Main Point

Once you determine what the important arguments are for your essay, read through it looking for any paragraphs or sentences which fail to address your main argument(s) or topic. It’s easy to accidentally go off on tangents when writing, and eliminating these tangents can help reduce word count. The more focused you can remain on your topic and arguments, the more concise your writing will be.

Use the Best Verb

This may sound obvious, but a lot of writers don’t do this well. When writing, always use the perfect verb rather than one that’s close, but not perfect. When you use the best verb possible, it will reduce the amount of writing you do in most cases. This is due to the fact that when you use a verb that’s not quite correct, you usually need to add more words to clarify your meaning. Here’s an example:

“They beat the opposing team by a lot of points.”

While “beat” is accurate in this case, it’s not the perfect verb because they not only beat the team, they beat the team by a lot. Using the better verb “trounce” in this instant will reduce the word count while still giving the same meaning as the longer sentence.

“They trounced the opposing team.”

Remove Adverbs

Look through your essay and see if you find any adverbs, especially adverbs which have “ly” endings. In many instances, these adverbs end up being filler words which end up being placed in the writing because it’s the way we talk, but the words don’t add anything beneficial to the actual essay. Go through the essay and ask if each one is needed and remove those that aren’t. Some words you may want to look out for are (click on image to expand to see better)

list of ly adverbs

Remove Adjectives

Much in the same way as adverbs make their way into writing, multiple adjectives are used when one (or none at all) would suffice. Read the essay to see if all of the adjectives used are needed, and remove those which don’t add to the meaning of the sentence being written. Some common adjectives to look for are:

able, bad, big, different, early, first, few, good, great, high, important, large, last, little, long, new, next, old, other, own, public, right, same, small, young

(Photo courtesy of Matt Hampel )

I hate maximum word counts because I can never stay under them. Why do teachers do this to me? Why can’t I just write as much as I want?

If you saw what the majority of students turn in for homework, you would understand perfectly why there is either a maximum or minimum (sometimes both)for writing assignments.

This is such a challenge sometimes. I hate editing because I love all my words. It helps to know how to reduce the word count even though I don’t want to do it. I think teachers should let us write as much as we want. Isn’t that helping us to be better students than limiting the amount we can write?

Limiting the amount you can write is actually something that can help you write better. It forces you to clean up your writing and only make the most necessary points which will make it more concise and accurate. Editing is more important than the actual writing to write well for most people. Your teacher is doing you a great service by limiting the amount you can write.

This isn’t a problem. The problem is reaching a minimum word count. Anyone who complains about writing too much doesn’t know what a real writing problem is.

You’re correct! Because obviously there is only one type of writing style!

A classic case of someone thinking that the world revolves around them and not understanding that just because it’s not a problem they have, others can’t have it. A very narrow world view. You might want to actually try and see things from the perspective of others every once in awhile.

I write too much. I’ wordy. I always have to reduce word count. It’s as much of n issue for me is not having enough words is for you. I hate it when people dismiss problems of others jus because it happens not to be a problem for them.

This may not be an issue for you, but it is for many people like me. It’s pretty self-centered of you to think that only your specific problems matter.

Clearly your still in primary school. Just to inform you while I was in grades 6-12 I was always over the minimum/maximum word limits. Today in college I’m easily 1500+ over my maximum limit without headers, intros, and sources. I’m not saying your issue isn’t real I’m just explaining there’s always a flip side to a problem/issue.

I’m wordy. Far too wordy. I do my best writing when I have to edit myself and these ideas are good places for me to begin. I wish I could stay under my professor’s word count limits, but it never happens I guess it’s better than writer’s block, but it’s still an issue.

Learning to write concisely will improve your writing so much. It’s not easy, but it can make a huge impact on the points you’re trying to convey. it’s worth practicing it.

Yes, I agree!

I’m wordy. My best writing is edited, and these will help. I wish I could adhere to word limits. Better than writer’s block!

Editing is such an under appreciated part of writing. I love the quote that says that great writing is composed on the editing block. Reducing your word count shouldn’t be viewed as a chore but as an opportunity to improve your writing. Being able to get your point across concisely is a great skill to have.

I agree. Most students don’t realize the importance of good editing and how it can greatly improve their writing. I believe students should spend at least as much time editing their essays as they do writing them.

I always do this! I tend to write double the word count and spend the same amount of time editing it, it not more time! It’s so difficult and I have it but I enjoy the idea of it making me write better and improve my academic writing. The most difficult bit is that I feel it’s all relevant and then having to condense it as a academic writer whilst still making the assignment flow. Argh! Uni problems!

Me Too!! I’m a bit crazy with writing! ;p

This is soooooo true and they don’t really teach you this in school. They tell you to write, but not to edit. I would have loved it if I was given a document that I had to keep the same meaning and important points, but shorten it by 200 words. It’s a skill I didn’t learn well in school but you need in the real world.

This is a new problem for me. I used to always be under word count, but recently I’ve started to always go over word count. I thought that being under was bad, but being over seems to be even more difficult. I’m not good at editing so it takes me so long to get under word count.

Editing is a lot like writing. The more you practice, the better you will get at it. Don’t get frustrated and continue to work on your editing skills. You’ll be surprised at how much better your writing gets the more you practice them. Good luck!

Seriously, who ever needs to reduce their essay word count? Everyone I know is always trying to make their word count. Do these people just write random things to get that high of a word count? That makes no sense…

ha ha. I assume you’re still in middle or high school with a comment like this. One day you’ll learn that writing can be fun and interesting, and when that happens, you won’t have enough space to write everything you want.

The thing is I am in middle school and always go 1000 words over the limit in my assignments. A good strategy that I use is to create a new document and copy and paste each paragraph. each time I copy a paragraph I try to delete some unnecessary words. This strategy works really well and it helps me a lot when doing assignments

For me i always go over because as I’m writing and sourcing things, I find other useful sections that provide good arguments and compassion’s. Currently I’m on a 3000 word essays and Iv done 4700 without an intro. My references are 700 so I’m technically 1000 over. I’m really struggling to condense it.

There’s an easy way to reduce your word count that works great for me every time. JUST DON”T WRITE SO MUCH!

I don’t know if you were being serious or not, but for some people that’s easier said than done. I tend to be wordy in my first drafts, and so when I go back through I cut a lot of words while editing. If I only wrote the exact number of words required the first time through, my grades would be a lot worse than they are. When I edit, I make my essays a lot better. I think most people do. If you’re only writing first drafts of any assignment, you’re not putting your best work forward. While your advice seems like it’s simple, it actually is bad advice for those who want to get good grades.

I think it’s difficult for people who have a hard time reaching a word count minimum to understand how difficult it is for those of us who have a hard time staying under word count. Although they are completely opposite problems, they are just as difficult for both sides. It’s kind of like two sides of the same coin.

It is, but those needing more words can source and add information, arguments and comparisons. But for those that have already done this it is difficult to cut and priorities your work based on what’s relevant or proves a better argument.

What if you have a lot to say on the topic? Should I just dumb down my writing because the teacher says that I have a maximum word count that I’m not supposed to exceed? Sometimes it’s important to write a lot when there’s a lot to be said.

Some of us like to write with detail and that can also make your word count extremely high. By toning down your piece and being a bit more general, it might also help decrease your word count.

I worry when I do this that I’m losing marks as I’m not explaining myself from cutting the work I did

I recently have found that I no longer have trouble reaching assigned word counts, but now I am constantly going over them. I’m not sure how this happened. Even worse, I think being over word count is even harder than being under it. Who would have thought?

I think this is a common problem as people become better writers. As you become more confident in your writing, you tend to write more. The previous writing problems turn into editing problems. the good news is that as you get better at writing, your wordiness will tend to go down again. Just like it to practice to increase your word count, it will take practice to reduce your word count as well.

I happened to be a wordy writer. I never seem to be able to stay under the assigned word count on my essays. I found that one of the best ways to reduce the amount that I write is to take the time to outline before I even start writing. If I outline and I see that the outline is too long, I know my writing is going to be long. That gives me the opportunity to focus on the most important points of the essay which helps to keep the word count down. I don’t know if this will work for everybody, but it works well for me and I thought I would share it in case it helps somebody else.

Use contractions when possible, use active voice and leave out the unnecessary adjectives. Be careful of going on tangents and stay on topic. Idioms and cliches are you enemy.

I’m 478 words over my essay maximum and I have no idea how I’m going to get it under the limit. All the words are important and if I cut anything, it ruins it. Why do I always have so much to say?

Were you able to get your essay under the limit? Learning to be concise in your writing is difficult, but it will make your writing a lot better in the long run.

Well Stephanie, you don’t have to take out anything! If you just write, maybe your teacher will give you easier stuff!

No, not quite.

Hey Stephanie, i totally feel you 🙁 I’m really wordy and i feel that adds to the uniqueness of my essays but sometimes it does get out of hand. Removing those words kind of ruins the flow of my essays and i don’t really know how to go about it :/

The best thing you can do for your writing is to learn to edit well.

That’s easy to say, but how do you learn to edit well? I want to reduce the number of words in my essays, but they all seem important. I don’t want to edit out words that are important to the essay. If all seem important, then how do you choose which ones to eliminate?

Practice. Editing is like writing…the more you do it, the better you become. You don’t even have to write to practice editing. take something someone else has written and see if you can make it read more cleanly. It can be fun and addicting.

You don’t even have to write to practice editing

Take the ‘even’ out for example.

Hi everyone! I need some help. I want to write a Book, but I can’t think of anything to write about! So can anyone Please Hep Me!!!

Write about the journey that lead you to writing a book. All the notable series of events

That is a really boring story. (At least mine is)

One day My friends Zoey, wrote a book, and it was really good, so I started to write one as well…

See, boring.

But thanks!

My time has come! I’ve got a lot of ideas, but I want to read the book, not write it. How about a person who has a normal, twenty-first century life falls into a different time, and everyone keeps insisting they belong there as a person the protagonist has never heard of. The protagonist knows that they don’t, but as time goes on, you, as the author, slowly reveal that everyone from that time is right and the protagonist was imagining their other life. Just an idea!

Write about something that you like or love tho do. I wrote a book about animals.

Of, and, but, by are evil words for me. Always get me.

im 1000 words (and counting) over the word limit, its due tomorrow and i wanna die

A few other tips:

1) Use the search bar to find the times you have said ‘that’ because most of the time you don’t actually need it for the sentence to make sense.

2) Also, you can try and reduce a phrase into one word. A a cause of this… = consequently…

3) If you are writing someone’s name (eg. an author or a president), then you can just use their surname.

4) This tip works particularly if you are writing a history essay, I always just say ‘America’ instead of ‘the USA’/’the US’. Also ‘The USSR’ instead of ‘The Soviet Union’ (also just say Britain, not the UK or Great Britain).

5) Sometimes you just have to look through and consider re-wording sentences: John Gaddis’s argument states that “Kennan was the architect of the Cold War” Gaddis disputes “Kennan was the architect of the Cold War”

“consequently” obviosuly does not mean “as a cause of this”

Great Britain is not the same as the UK.

I mustn’t write more than 150 words in my essay and it’s making me crazy :C

That’s not an essay, that’s a paragraph! I’m having trouble getting below 750.

Jesus Christ, what?

I did not say anything.

I’m submitting my English essay into the departments contest and the limit is 800 I originally had 1,332. These tips from both articles and comments are helping bunches let’s hope I can get it under the limit!

I’m 1500 words over on my dissertation.. i’ve used all these methods and i’m still way over the word limit.. H E L P

Have you tried to to move around sentences and maybe try to then get rid of some that don’t matter anymore?

I have this problem – I am currently over by 1046 words. But, through this process I have finally found a solution. Plan my paragraphs in advance making sure I estimate how much I should write for each paragraph; by using this as a mental guide as I write, I will know when to stop before I get the end and it’s all a bit too late.

I am 150 words over my 1000 word essay. I got into a essay writing mood and was going for 2 hr before i looked at my word count. All of my words are important but I have to get rid of some.

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how to reduce the word count of an essay


7 Word Count Tips for Clear, Powerful Academic Writing

Maximum word limits are a pain in the butt. It’s kinda soul destroying to have to cut all the beautiful words you’ve just spent hours writing.

But they are there for a reason.

Word limits force you to write concisely so you can answer the question well without wasting words. I often felt like there was no way I could cut enough from my word count but, using my techniques below, I always managed to and the end result was a clearer, more powerful piece of writing.

In this blog post you’ll discover:

  • Why you should cut the fluff from your writing
  • Why you should try to reduce your word count
  • 7 simple techniques to improve your writing today


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

Your goal isn’t to write a literary masterpiece. You won’t get higher marks for knocking your tutor’s socks off with your elegant prose.

Instead – you need to get your ideas down on paper in the least amount of words possible. While your writing may seem less pleasant to read, your tutor will appreciate de-bloated writing…and you should gain higher marks.

Benefits of reducing your word count and improving the clarity of your writing:

  • Your ability to control your language will give the reader the impression you are intelligent and educated
  • Clear writing will help the reader understand your ideas and argument
  • Cutting the fluff will allow you to include more valuable points so you can score the highest mark possible

If you manage to cut 100 words from an essay by using these tips, that’s 100 extra words to answer the question. Those 100 spare words could be used to craft seven or eight kick ass sentences that could gain you the marks needed to push you to the next grade.

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Word Count

1. get rid of redundant modifiers.

The use of redundant modifiers has crept into our everyday language so they’re hard to spot. Marketing messages often include redundant modifiers to attempt to add effect, such as, ‘ very unique ’. If something is ‘ unique ’ it is one of a kind. Adding ‘ very ’ does nothing to the meaning, adds an extra word and just sounds silly if you think about it. The same applies to the examples, ‘ added bonus ’ or ‘ absolutely certain ’.

Look through your writing to see if you’ve included any redundant modifiers. After awhile you’ll get in the habit of not using them.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

Absolutely certain > certain

Added bonus > bonus

Basic essentials > essentials

Complete monopoly of the market > monopoly of the market

Crystal clear > clear

End result > result

Exact same > exact/same

Final outcome > outcome

Immediate vicinity > vicinity

Major breakthrough > breakthrough

Make plans in advance > make plans

New initiative > initiative

Natural instinct > instinct

Over exaggerate > exaggerate

Past experience > experience

Past memories > memories

Personal opinion > opinion

Postpone until later > postpone

Revert back > revert

Top priority > priority

True fact > fact

Very unique > unique

Weather conditions > weather

Written down > written

2. De-bloat your inflated phrases

Similarly, there are probably instances where you’re using two, three or four words where one would do. These can take a few edits to pick up but once removed your word count and clarity are improved pretty quickly.

Are indications of > indicates

At all times > always

At the present time > at present/currently/now

Collaborate/join together > collaborate/join

Completely ruined > devastated

Concerning the matter of > about

Despite the fact that > although

Due to the fact that > because

During the course of > during

For the purpose of > for

Has a tendency to > tends

Has knowledge of > knows

Has the ability to > can

In a situation in which > when

In order to > to/so that

In the event that > if

It is necessary that > must/should

On the other hand > conversely

On two separate occasions > twice

The majority of > most

There is a chance that > may/might/could

Until such time as > until

What the organisation aims to do is > the organisation aims to

Whether or not > whether

Will provide a summary > will summarise

With regards to > about

3. Redundant categories

Some people have a tendency to state an attribute or characteristic and then, perhaps in an effort to be more accurate, state its category too. For example, ‘ blue in colour ’ should just be ‘ blue ’. ‘ Small in size ’ should just be ‘ small ’. Remove these in your writing and sound smarter.

Attractive in appearance > attractive

Blue in colour > blue

Heavy in weight > heavy

Honest in character > honest

In a confused state > confused

Of a strange type > strange

Of cheap quality > cheap

Period in time > period

Small in size > small

Unusual in nature > unusual

4. Remove ‘that’

Some words take up precious word count but add nothing. The most common is ‘ that ’ which is fairly harmless but, over the course of an entire essay, could increase the word count. You won’t always be able to remove ‘ that ’ and maintain clarity, but search your document and see if removing them alters the meaning of the sentence.

Ensure that you make relevant use of both articles

This is the book that she wrote

The report that was approved by the board

I want to buy that car

5. Delete adverbs

Adverbs can weaken academic writing by detracting from what is being said. Using adverbs frequently will bloat your writing and can disrupt a reader’s flow. Don’t add a descriptive word to a verb, instead just use a descriptive verb. For example, ‘ dropped rapidly ’ can become ‘ plummeted ’.

Search your text for the word ‘ very ’ or adverbs ending in ‘ ly’ and see if they can be replaced while maintaining clarity.

Eat noisily > gulp

Drop rapidly > plummet

Look angrily > scowl

Run quickly > sprint

Say quietly > whisper

Very big > enormous

Very tired > exhausted

6. Eliminate redundant pairings

The English language is so rich we often have too many words to choose from . Rather than choosing one and sticking to it we tend to pile them on top of each other. A simple idea can quickly become a bloated sentence filled with pointless words.

Look out for some of the examples below and shorten them to reduce the word count but maintain clarity

(Also do this where you’ve created your own list of descriptive or explanatory words.)

First and foremost

Hope and trust

Each and every

So on and do forth

Over and done with

One and only

Few and far between

Peace and quiet

Hope and desire

Tidy and presentable

7. Remove ‘helping words’

This technique can take a little practice to implement but it can reduce your word count quickly. Sentences including words in the form of ‘ be ’ or ‘ have ’ can often be edited and rearranged to reduce word count and add clarity. Check your writing for these sentences.

First, one has to analyse the situation > first, analyse the situation

The report was prepared by Psychology students > Psychology students prepared the report

This report has been prepared to analyse… > this report analyses/aims to analyse…

His duties were classified in the report > the report classified his duties.

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Reduce Word Count Generator

Cut your word count without reducing the content. This tool is very easy to use:

  • Paste the text.
  • Mind that there is a 15,000-character limit.
  • Choose text reduction options.
  • Click the button.
  • Copy the text to the clipboard.

⭐️ Word Count Reducer: the Benefits

  • ✒️ What Is Cut-Down-Word-Count Generator?
  • ✂️ How to Cut Down Words?
  • 👍 Word Cutter Do's & Don'ts

🖇️ References

✒️ reduce word count generator: what is it.

Cut-Down-Word-Count Generator is a free online tool that summarizes texts and reduces sentence and word count. It cuts out unnecessary words , phrases, and sentences but doesn't change the sense of a text. This is a helpful instrument for students, journalists, and other people who work with loads of written information.

Besides reducing your writing, you can also use the tool to summarize books, short novels, and articles on any topic. Artificial intelligence finds keywords and decides which sentences and words are the most essential.

The tool is also fully compatible with Grammarly – you can edit the text on our page if you have an extension.

✂️ How to Cut Down Words in My Essay?

Automatic tools are great when you need to work with extensive text . However, consider manual summarizing for more flexibility.

Here's how to reduce your word count manually:

  • Find and highlight the key messages . If you do it thoroughly, you will preserve the initial sense of a text.
  • Cut out adjectives and adverbs . Many of them are just filler words that serve only the aesthetic features of a text. That is why you won't lose the main points if you delete them.
  • Look for synonyms and synonymic collocations . To avoid plagiarism in academic papers, use synonyms when referring to another author's thoughts. And you will still need to give them a reference.
  • Change structures . Simplifying sentences is another way to reduce the word count. Just rewrite lengthy and overcomplicated grammar.
  • One paragraph – one idea . Each section should focus only on one idea or answer one question. Keep your paragraphs at 200-300 and sentences at 15-25 words.

Words and Phrases to Avoid

You will also need to work on vocabulary . In this part, we will explain how to avoid excessive wording and bring your essay to academic standards.

👍 Word Cutter for Essays: Do's and Don'ts

This list of practical recommendations will help you use the word remover to its max.

  • Don't paste long texts . The word limit allows us to summarize extensive passages, but we don't recommend it. Instead of cutting the whole text, work with each part separately.
  • Don't simply copy and paste the results into your essay . You will likely need to modify the reduced text to create a smooth final version.
  • Divide texts into logical parts . The AI will identify the main points quicker and have fewer error risks. It will also make it easier for you to navigate and spot mistakes.
  • Check the results . It will be easier for you to manually correct inaccuracies at the very first stage. The tool is fast, but the human brain is more capable of understanding writing subtleties.
  • Remove plagiarism . This is not a paraphrasing tool , so you must work on plagiarism. If it is just for personal use, you can leave the text as it is. Otherwise, you will need to quote or paraphrase the text to avoid plagiarized content.
  • Work on word choice . Some texts you use might not be suitable for academic writing or your instructor's requirements. Devote some time to put the vocabulary in order.

📝 Word Reducing Example

Check out this example of a text summarized by our word reducer.

Original text

In the current study, several limitations of the research are necessary to mention. While random sampling will ensure representativeness and a low level of bias, there is a risk of limited outcomes in quantitative analysis. Since the questionnaires use structured and close-ended questions, there is a possibility of limited outcomes, which means that the results cannot always represent the actual occurrence in generalized forms.

Since respondents have limited response options that the researcher designed, the outcomes thus ultimately depend on the perspective taken by a scholar when creating the questions. Another significant limitation of the study is the limited availability of secondary data that can be applied to the research context. While the subject matter is widespread, there has been little research on implementing a sports education instructional program at educational facilities. Finally, data may not be robust enough to make conclusions regarding study findings.

Full text: Jeddah University: Sports Health Education Instructional Program - 4403 Words | Free Paper Example

Reduced version:

Since the questionnaires use structured and close-ended questions, there is a possibility of limited outcomes, which means that the results cannot always represent the actual occurrence in generalized forms. Another significant limitation of the study is the limited availability of secondary data that can be applied to the research context. While the subject matter is widespread, there has been little research on implementing a sports education instructional program at educational facilities.

  • 10 Tips for Cutting Your Word Count | The University of Adelaide
  • Top Words to Avoid in Academic Writing | Useful Advices & Tricks
  • Summarizing: How to effectively summarize the work of others | SFU Library
  • The Writing Center | When to Summarize, Paraphrase, and...
  • Call to +1 844 889-9952

Word Count Reducer

Have you exceeded your assignment word limit and now wonder how to cut your essay length? Try our word count decreaser! It will shorten your paper while preserving its meaning.

Create a summary of any academic text with this summarizing software! It will generate a synopsis for you in 3 simple steps:

How often do you exceed the word count by more than 10%? How often do you lack the required amount of words? In many cases, writing a text of the exact size is difficult. However, teachers assess your ability to squeeze all required content into a particular volume, especially in admission essays.

Use our handy free online tool – a word decreaser – if you’re clueless about what to cut out from your writing.

  • ✂️ How to Use the Word Decreaser?

✅ Word Cutter: the Benefits

  • 🕰️ When to Use the Tool?
  • ✍️ How to Cut Words?
  • 🤩 Why Choose This Tool?
  • 🔗 References

✂️ Word Count Decreaser Guidelines

When you realize that your text requires reduction, you may follow two paths – edit it on your own or take advantage of modern technology. Our smart word count decreaser will do the job for you! The entire process is automated and lets you submit an essay with an exact word count without losing the important content.

Here’s how you can use the decrease word count tool:

  • Paste your text into the first window;
  • Select the number of sentences you want the summary to have;
  • Choose to see the keywords of the text;
  • Press “Decrease” and review the result.

The best about our tool is that you won’t spend hours editing your writing masterpiece. You can quickly decrease word count online and experiment with several word combinations to find the best match.

🕰️ Word Cutter – When to Use It?

Let’s discuss the propriety of using the decrease word count generator and explain the cases when you’ll find it useful.

Exceeding the Word Count (Essay, Research Paper, Thesis)

Each academic assignment has a specific word count based on the contents and depth of the research.

  • A standard essay usually ranges from 500 to 2000 words;
  • A research paper is rarely smaller than 2,500-3,000 words;
  • Theses and dissertations have more extended word counts, from 10,000 to 25,000.

So, if you’ve hopelessly run out of the required word count and still need to cover some vital sections, turn to our word count reducer. The tool will cut words from the essay or dissertation to let you meet the word limit. You can stipulate the number of sentences it should contain and highlight the keywords to preserve the core content.

Making a Book Review

A book review is a detailed yet concise analysis of the book’s contents, main plot twists, and characters. Students of humanities departments, especially Literature, often need to make book reviews and reports based on the studied material. But do you have time to read all the books and then write reviews? If not, our word count reducer can help you receive a short, manageable summary in a few seconds. Read it, get the book’s content, and write a review in one go without spending several days on full-size book reading.

Writing an Abstract

You may often need to complete an abstract for an essay, dissertation, or other academic manuscripts , which should not exceed 200-250 words. Producing such a concise summary is often challenging, as your work is large and contains many valuable facts you might want to cover. Our word reducer will do the job for you. Just instruct it on what to focus on, and the tool will generate a brief, informative abstract, keeping the data you need.


Students often have to read, process, and synthesize dozens of scholarly works when writing academic papers, like essays or coursework. The challenge here is to refer to sources in a non-plagiarized way , so you should dedicate enough time and effort to paraphrasing. Though our keyword reducer will not make the summarized content unique (paraphraser will), it will identify the key facts and points for further paraphrasing .

In this section, you’ll find the key advantages of this word reducer.

✍️ How to Reduce Word Count?

Many students ask, “how can I reduce my word count?” This task requires careful editing and content review so the process may take hours. We’ve compiled some handy tips to guide you in this process and hone your word-count-reduction skills.

🤩 Why Choose This Reduce-Word-Count Generator?

As you can see, reducing the word count can be a tedious task. Our free online tool can do the job for you by speeding up the process of word cutting.

  • You can shorten the text without losing its quality and key information.
  • You stay in complete control of the word reduction process.
  • You can compare the original text’s word/character/sentence count with in the output section.
  • You can see keywords for a quick review of the core content.
  • You are able to copy the result with one click.

What’s more, the tool comes with a detailed, user-friendly interface that will make your experience a breeze. It’s free to use, and you can enjoy it without limitations for any academic challenge.

📎 References

  • How to Reduce Your Essay Word Count – Word Counter Blog
  • 10 Tips for Cutting Your Word Count – the University of Adelaide
  • Paraphrasing – Purdue OWL® – Purdue University
  • Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper; The Writing Center; UW–Madison
  • Research Paper Structure


IOE Writing Centre

Reducing the word count


Why reduce your word count? Reducing the word count lets you add more detail and content to your argument, and allows you to use more words for cohesion and transition devices. This may improve your writing overall.

Try it yourself: Look at the following text and try to reduce the word count by deleting unnecessary words. Then look at the shortened version below and compare your suggestions.

Example 'Wordy' Text

Original version.

It can be considered as generally accepted that different teacher trainers working within the Cambridge ESOL training system may have widely differing approaches and ways of working.  An illustration of possible differences can be given through a description of the way feedback is delivered during the teaching practice element of the course.  As there is no information or guidance from Cambridge ESOL about how to conduct post-observation feedback, different trainers on different courses will organise this in a variety of ways.  Examples of divergences in practice which I have observed include whether the trainer speaks first or lets the trainee speak first, how much and in what way the trainer expects other trainees to contribute, or whether the feedback is given directly after the lesson or the following day.  As well as the range of procedural differences such as these, there is variation in the way the trainer will communicate during feedback sessions. (153 words)

Shortened version

Cambridge ESOL teacher trainers may have differing approaches, for example in their feedback practices.  In the absence of post-observation feedback guidance, trainers might give feedback in a variety of ways.  Examples of divergences which I have observed include whether the trainer or trainee initiates the post-observation discussion, expectations of contributions from other trainees and feedback timing.  As well as procedural differences, variation in trainer communication styles during feedback sessions also exists. (70 words)

(Source:  Adapted from Blackwell, J. (2009). "Jesus, Janey, why are you doing this to me!": CELTA Trainer Training and the Trainer-Trainee Relationship . UCL Institute of Education: Unpublished Masters Assignment. Adapted.)

Further reading: Word Count Instructions

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How to decrease your word count, without ruining your point.

Here's our comprehensive guide to writing shorter sentences, without affecting the strength of your argument

Hugo Whitehead

Hugo Whitehead

Whether you're at school, university or writing your thirteenth book, you’ve probably got an incurable habit of writing more than you're supposed to. One minute you're struggling to get words on the page, the next you're way over your required word count.

To ease your worries, we've put together a comprehensive guide to writing shorter sentences, without changing the meaning of your content.

Check what is being counted:

First of all, check what is actually being counted. Often, your bibliography, footnotes, appendixes, and image captions aren’t counted in the word limit, so make sure you aren’t including them accidentally.

Watch out for repetition:

Without even realizing it, people will over explain and repeat themselves. Sometimes even good writers will include information twice. For example, “I went to university at the University of Technology Sydney”. Did you notice it? I didn't need to say “to university” because it is already stated in “University of Technology Sydney”. Instead, I should have said “I went to the University of Technology Sydney”. It might sound simple, but you’ll probably want to get someone else to read over your work to find these, as they’re rather hard to catch.

Remove adverbs:

Adverbs are usually unnecessary, and can weaken your writing. A quick thesaurus search will help you find a stronger synonym. For example, changing "very neat" to "immaculate" sounds better, and is one word shorter. You can find out more about the impact of adverbs on your writing in this article .

Remove adjectives:

In some cases, there is no need to over describe something. Especially, if you are trying to cut down you word count, you don’t need to say the day was cloudless, there was little wind, humidity was perfect and it was a lovely 27 degrees. Shorten it by using ideas that are familiar to people e.g. ‘it was a perfect summer day’. Your readers will know what a perfect summer day is like so you don’t need to waste words explaining it.

Use contractions:

This is a rather sneaky trick, but by contracting two words into one, you're easily reducing your word count without changing the meaning at all. For example, change “I have” to “I’ve” or “Would not” to “Wouldn’t”. Be careful though, if you are writing in formal context for an essay, CV or assignment, it’s best to avoid using contractions as they give a rather colloquial tone to your writing.

Use commas:

Sentences are typically used to convey one idea. However, if you can link two of your sentences together to discuss the same idea, do it. By using a comma or conjunction to link two sentences, you're bound to remove some words in the middle. For example, “Emily was so mean to me. She used to bully me” can be changed to “Emily was so mean because she used to bully me”. Make sure you don’t try and link every sentence as it will ruin the flow of your writing.

Eliminate wordy transitions:

Most good writers will try and link their paragraphs together with some form of transition. Whilst this gives flow from paragraph to paragraph, they can be wordy. Try and use a single word to link sentences. For example, use ‘Additionally’ instead of ‘In addition’, or ‘Opposingly’ instead of ‘In contrast’.

Swap out phrases for words:

From time to time, writers will use common phrases or idioms to help explain a situation. They are an easy way to cut out words. For examples, change “Volkswagen Golfs are a dime a dozen in Sydney” for “Volkswagen Golfs are common in Sydney”. Another example is “Jimmy was feeling under the weather on Monday after a big weekend”, which could be changed to “Jimmy was sick after a big weekend”.

Pick your best work:

If you have gone through you work and can’t find any easy spots to reduce your word count, the best thing to do is to re-read your writing and determine what your strongest points are. Focus on a few main points and keep the parts that you feel have the strongest impact on your reader.

It’s not an easy process. Cutting down your word count is a good skill to have, and no doubt you’ll have to do it at some point in the future.

Let Outwrite do it:

Can’t be bothered to do this all yourself? Check out Outwrite’s paraphrasing tool . It can help you rewrite sentences to make them shorter, clearer, and more compelling. Just sign up to our Pro plan, set your Rewrite goal, then get to work!


how to reduce the word count of an essay

How to Shorten an Essay: 4 Techniques to Reduce Word Count

If you need to shorten your essay by 100-500 words, or even more, you can use one or more of four techniques. You can clean up your sentences, remove repetition, summarize your examples, and/or cut out an entire section.

One of my subscribers recently asked me, “ How do I compress an essay of 700-1000 words, or even more, to just 300 words? ”

In this tutorial I will show you four easy ways to shorten your essay by as much or as little as you wish. I am giving them to you in the order you should try them out.

Here are four techniques to shorten your essay:

Technique #1: Sentence Cleanup

When I taught essay writing in college, I noticed that students wrote sentences that were just too wordy. 

They used 20 words where 10 would have probably done the trick. If you examine your sentences, you’ll often find that you can say the same thing in much fewer words.

“In my opinion, there are many people who want to lose weight.”

This sentence contains 12 words. 

Here’s how we can shorten it by performing a Sentence Cleanup.

First, you never have to say, “ In my opinion, ” because if it were not your opinion, you wouldn’t be stating it. Okay? So, let’s cross out “ in my opinion. ”

“ In my opinion, there are many people who want to lose weight.”

We just cut out three words. 

Next, the phrase “ there are ” is usually unnecessary, and if you take it out, your sentence will become more elegant. So, let’s do it. Let’s just cross it out.

“ There are many people who want to lose weight.”

We also have to cross out the extra word “ who ” because it is only needed if you use “ there are. ”

We just got rid of three more words. 

And so our sentence becomes:

“Many people want to lose weight.”

How many words is that? That is now a six word sentence. Guess what – we just cut this sentence in half. 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Do this enough times in your essay, and it will get a lot shorter.

“How do I cut out 200 words from my essay to make it shorter?”

This sentence contains 14 words. Let’s perform a Sentence Cleanup.

Notice that it is pretty obvious that to cut out 200 words from an essay will make it shorter. Therefore, stating that you want to do it “ to make it shorter ” is unnecessary. 

If we get rid of that phrase, we’ll cut out 4 words from this sentence and make it a lot more elegant. 

“How do I cut out 200 words from my essay to make it shorter ?”

Technique #2: Removing Repetition

Repetition can be found on all levels – in a sentence, in a paragraph, or a section. When you reduce or eliminate repetition in your essay, you are making it less redundant. “Redundant” just means repetitive and therefore useless.

In the last example we just did, we eliminated a redundancy from a sentence. And that’s part of a Sentence Cleanup. But you can also find and eliminate entire redundant sentences.  

Look for repetitive phrases, sentences, and even passages in your content and remove them. 

Students often repeat things over and over, using different words, thinking that they’re writing great content. Those are your opportunities to significantly shorten your essay while improving it at the same time.

Here’s an example from a fictitious student essay. Let’s say the student writes about his trip to Paris and states:

“ I found that Parisians are very nice if you talk to them in French. ”

And then, in the same or even a different paragraph or section, the following sentence would appear:

“Parisians can be very nice people, but they really prefer that you speak French with them.”

Well, the two sentences say the same thing, just using different words. 

So, what do you do? 

Pick the longer sentence and just delete it.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Sometimes you will find a whole paragraph in your essay that is repetitive and can be removed without the essay losing any meaning. If you find such a paragraph, just delete it.

Technique #3: Zooming Out

Make sure that you go through your essay using the first two techniques before you employ this and the next one. 

The only case where you would do Zooming Out first would be if you had to shorten your essay drastically – by 30% or more. 

If you’ve cleaned up all your sentences and removed all repetitive content, and you still need to lose hundreds of words, the Zooming Out technique will really help. 

Here’s how it works. 

You may have heard that in essay writing, you are supposed to proceed from general to specific. Whether you stick to this rule really well in your essay or not, I want you to notice something. 

In your essay, you make statements that are:

  • very general
  • less general
  • somewhat specific
  • very specific

The most general statement in your essay is the thesis because it summarizes the entire essay. And the most specific parts of your essay are examples .

So, in order to shorten your essay, you can summarize your examples. I call this Zooming Out because you are taking something that was very specific (zoomed in) and making it more general (zoomed out). 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Let’s say you’re writing about the harms of second-hand smoking. And in one of the sections you provide an example of your friend or someone in the news who became seriously ill because she lived with a smoker for a long time:

“My friend Isabelle was married to a chain smoker. Her husband refused not only to give up his habit but even to reduce it. As years went by, Isabelle began to notice some respiratory symptoms. At first, she developed a light but persistent cough. Then, she started to feel out of breath more and more often. When she finally went to a pulmonologist, a test revealed that she had COPD, a serious lung disease.”

This example is 74 words long. And this is your opportunity to shorten your essay dramatically. 

You can simply contract this example into one short sentence and write something like this:

“A friend of mine developed lung disease after having lived with a chain smoker for twelve years.”

Now, this sentence contains only 17 words. We just cut out 57 words just by Zooming Out on one example. 

We are Zooming Out because we are no longer exploring this example in detail. We simply provide a fact without giving a lot of specific information. 

So, look for these detailed examples in your essay and just summarize each of them into one short sentence.

Technique #4: Cutting out a Section

This technique works very well to cut out a big chunk of your essay in one fell swoop.

Let’s say that you wrote an essay in which you have four supporting points to prove your main point, your thesis. 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

If this is a 2,000-word essay, then each section is approximately 500 words long. But do you really need four reasons/sections to support your point?

Is it possible that if you provide only three supporting points, your essay will still work very well?

how to reduce the word count of an essay

For example, if you argue that apples are a great food, you could have four supporting points, claiming that apples are:

But what if you simply took out one of these points? Let’s say that you eliminate the section about the portability of apples.

Will your essay still work? Sure it will. It will work just fine with the three remaining supporting points. And you just cut out 500 words (in a 2,000-word essay). 

After you have cut out a section, make sure to go back to your thesis statement and edit it to reflect the change.

I’ll leave you with one final tip. When trying to choose which sentence, paragraph, or section to cut out from your essay, go for the content that you know is not the best.

For example, you may have a section in your essay where you quote too much. Or, perhaps you were not very careful in paraphrasing, and your passage sounds too much like the original source. These would be great bits of content to get rid of.

I hope this was helpful. Now go ahead and shorten your essay to your heart’s desire!

How to Write a 300 Word Essay – Simple Tutorial

How to expand an essay – 4 tips to increase the word count, 10 solid essay writing tips to help you improve quickly, essay writing for beginners: 6-step guide with examples, 6 simple ways to improve sentence structure in your essays.

Tutor Phil is an e-learning professional who helps adult learners finish their degrees by teaching them academic writing skills.

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8 Effective Tips to Reduce Word Count

Table of Contents

If you’re wondering how to reduce word count for your article, you’re in luck. This article explores ever

8 Tips to Reduce Word Count in Writing

Writing is a tedious process, often comprised of long paragraphs and many words. Whether you’re writing a paper, an essay, or a blog, there are often long-winded passages that detract from the quality of your work. Yet, writing less can seem complicated and discouraging at first.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Below are eight practical tips to reduce word count without sacrificing significant meaning.

1. Remove “The” & “That” from your sentences

You may often get away without using the word “the” in your content.

Original: I would like to have both the cake and the chocolate for dessert.

Edited: I would like to have both cake and chocolate for dessert.

Likewise, the term “that” is frequently overused and can be easily removed from your writing without much difference.

Original: I noticed that the new intern deleted the folder that contained the main file.

Edited: I noticed the new intern deleted the folder containing the main file.

2. Eliminate Adverbs and Adjectives

Adverbs and adjectives are used to modify verbs and nouns in a sentence. However, strong words don’t always require modification.

The majority of adverbs and adjectives weaken powerful verbs and nouns, lowering the effect of your writing. To make your writing stronger and more concise, eliminate needless adverbs and adjectives.

3. Remove Lengthy Phrases

In any writing project, it’s essential to make a point or idea clear, concise, and practical with few words .

This is essential for better audience comprehension and higher readership. This can be accomplished by trimming the wordy phrases from your writing. Make your writing more organized, and Look for unnecessary words to eliminate and long phrases to condense.

Original: All the new recruits are requested to attend the meeting that has been scheduled for Saturday.

Edited: New recruits are requested to attend the meeting on Saturday.

4. Write in Active Voice

Active voice is when the subject matter of the sentence performs the action. When compared to passive speech, active voice employs fewer words and helps you write clear and compelling content.

It’s easier to read and comprehend when messages are not overly outlined.

Passive: The class was canceled by the teacher.

Active: The teacher canceled the class.

5. Avoid Extra Transitions

You can use several strategies to improve your word count without losing too much meaning. It is common to write sentences that begin with a word or phrase such as “Indeed,” “similarly,” or “furthermore.”

These phrases are sometimes unnecessary, and the reader will likely become discouraged by the repetition. You can quickly revise such transitions without hampering the meaning. You can use simple substitutions to remove unnecessary transitions.

Original: Indeed , we reached the final round of the competition.

Edited: we reached the final round of the competition.

6. Reduce Conjunctions

Try to cut out unnecessary conjunctions. Conjunctions link two discrete statements that can be rewritten as two separate sentences.

Take a look at your writing and find the parts that end with a conjunction such as “that,” “but,” or “for.” This may sound like English grammatical rules, but it’s a copywriting strategy often employed to make writing easier to read.

Original: I wanted to study with my friend in the afternoon, and we needed a quiet place to sit and concentrate.

Edited: I wanted to study with my friend in the afternoon. We needed a quiet place to sit and concentrate.

7. Get Rid of Repetitions

Read through your content carefully to find and cut repetitions. This is an easy way to reduce word count quickly.

Though the process can take longer than other techniques, it leads to more significant word reduction. You may struggle to recognize repetitions in your writing, but reading your content backward sentence-by-sentence can help. It lets your brain be more focused on the content.

8. Remove any Previous Content References.

It’s best not to reference previous information with phrases like those mentioned in the previous section or described earlier. These are mostly filler words, and removing them will help you cut a few words off your word limit.

While these tips can help you reduce your word count quickly , no one suggestion will be more effective than the other. Experiment with a few of these and find what works for you.

Additionally, the order of these tips doesn’t matter; the importance of each point varies for everyone. So try these eight tips to understand which one works best for a particular piece. Ultimately, it all comes down to practice and writing.

8 Effective Tips to Reduce Word Count

Pam is an expert grammarian with years of experience teaching English, writing and ESL Grammar courses at the university level. She is enamored with all things language and fascinated with how we use words to shape our world.

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

Shortening an Essay

Shortening an Essay

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

Read on for a comprehensive guide on 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 online essay writers, and the team will help you score an A

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How Do I Make My Essay Shorter

It is possible to shorten your essay 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 to shorten your essay.

When it comes to writing 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, you can use simple techniques to shorten an essay.

1. Rank your Arguments’ strengths and weakness 

The first technique for 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 most vital and valid points.

If you find some of your weak supporting points, eliminate them while 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 of 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 vital points.

However, if you still want to include all the points, 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

Valid arguments within each paragraph of your essay should support the topic and the thesis statement.

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

Students may find themselves accidentally going off-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 beyond the required word count.

If you identify such unnecessary arguments within your essay while editing, eliminate them to 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 is some of the weak words to avoid in writing essays and research papers.

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

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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.

In this case, the subject 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 comprises 4 words, while the second sentence in the passive voice comprises 6 words. Therefore, you can see that writing in an active voice shortens your essay.

5. Utilize the most Applicable Strong Verbs

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

If you want to shorten your essay, find the best verb that conveys a precise 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 “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 the 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 on the length of the paper. For instance, a 4-page paper may require more secondary sources than a 2-page one.

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.

Avoiding block quotes will make the paragraphs short and your arguments more captivating to the reader. Therefore, avoid using essay or sentence generators, as these will quote other sources.

However, note that using external sources to support your points and arguments is always advisable when writing an essay. Such supporting content is important for the grades and 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

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; you must avoid them when writing an essay.

When editing your essay and you find adverbs with “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 are, therefore, unnecessary.

3. Conjunctions

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

These are some of the words that make an essay ridiculously long and create 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 the 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 to your essay and puts a warm reading tone.

In addition, using the 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 avoiding the first-person language in an essay and apply that in your future writing.

Following the above tips will make it easier to shorten your essays.

Watch this video to learn more about this.

YouTube video

With over 10 years in academia and academic assistance, Alicia Smart is the epitome of excellence in the writing industry. She is our managing editor and is in charge of the writing operations at Grade Bees.

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Essay Word Cutter - Reduce a Text in an Instant

Input your essay to reduce word count

Reduced version length:

Here is your summary:

Our free word cutter for essays uses AI technology to shorten texts in these easy steps:

  • Paste the text you want to shorten. It should be a maximum of 18,000 characters in one go.
  • Indicate the length of the text you want to receive as a result of summarization.
  • Click “Shorten the text” and get the results.
  • 🖋 The Tool’s Benefits

✂️ How to Cut Words in an Essay?

  • 🖇 References

🖋 Essay Word Cutter Benefits

Text summarizing is a crucial process in academic writing. It demonstrates your capacity to organize and deliver the key facts, story points, ideas, etc. A person can easily understand a decent summary without reading the original material. Thus, students love our essay shortener for the following reasons:

If you need to summarize your hard-won draft essay to fit the word count requirement and are pressured to fulfill a fast-approaching deadline, you can make a few adjustments to your content. Follow these guidelines to reduce your word count in a shorter time:

  • Remove conjunctions
  • Eliminate adverbs and adjectives
  • Omit unnecessary articles
  • Decrease wordy phrases
  • Use an active voice
  • Choose shorter words

Remove Conjunctions

Conjunctions are words or phrases that connect two independent sentences, words, or phrases that can often be rewritten into separate statements.

The most common conjunctions are and , but , or , because , and however , among others.

These conjunctions increase the word and character counts in an essay.

Eliminate Adverbs and Adjectives

Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives, prepositions, or other adverbs in sentences. Adjectives describe and qualify nouns and pronouns. Using adjectives and adverbs in an essay reduces the quality of your writing, while omitting superfluous adjectives and adverbs makes the text more concise .

Omit Unnecessary Articles – The/That

Avoid overusing the words “ the ” and “ that ” in your essay since they increase the wordiness of your content.

Decrease Wordy Phrases

Identify the needless words and lengthy phrases that clutter your essay and eliminate them or replace them with more functional words and phrases. Avoiding complex terms and long sentences makes it easy for anyone to understand the topic easily .

Use an Active Voice

Articles written in an active voice use fewer words than those in a passive voice. An active voice makes the essay clearer and more compelling , thus delivering a convincing argument.

Choose Shorter Words and Avoid Unnecessary Transitions

To reduce the character count of your essay, replace long words with their shorter synonyms.

For instance:

The word “utilize” can be replaced by use.

Additionally, the use of transition words is essential to maintaining a proper flow in your writing, thus making the article engaging to the reader. However, transitions make a text wordier . That’s why it’s vital to strike the right balance between coherence and reasonable word count.

Thank you for reading this guide!

Check the other study tools we’ve prepared: paper rewriter , poem meaning generator , and project topic maker .

📍 Essay Word Cutter – FAQ

📍 how to cut words from an essay.

The most efficient and effective way is to use our free online essay cutter to do the heavy lifting. However, if you have time and prefer to summarize your own, you can apply the tips shared in this article to reduce the word count in your essay.

📍 How to reduce word count in an essay?

You can use the tips highlighted above to trim your essay’s word count. If you’re strained with time, you can utilize our free summary generator to shorten your essay and achieve impeccable results quickly, within the click of a button.

📍 How to check word count on Word?

Check the status bar when you need to know how many words, pages, characters, paragraphs, or lines are in a Word document. For a partial word count, select the words you want to count. The status bar shows the word count for that selection and the entire document.

🔗 References

  • How to effectively summarize the work of others - SFU Library
  • Summarizing - Academic Integrity at MIT
  • How to reduce word count without reducing content
  • How to Increase or Decrease Your Paper's Word Count
  • 10 Tips for Cutting Your Word Count

Automatic Word Count Reducer

Summarize any writing piece with this word count reducer in 3 steps:

  • Add the passage you want to cut.
  • Choose the desired number of sentences to keep in the passage.
  • Click "Reduce" and enjoy the result.

Number of sentences in results:

Original ratio

100 % in your summary


Why may you need to use an automatic online word count shortener?

The need to preserve a specific word count is called the essay's " scope " – an extent of analysis a student should not exceed in a particular assignment. In these cases, a paraphrasing generator that can remove redundant words and help you keep within the assigned word count.

  • 🔢 What Is Essay Word Count?

✍️ Word Count for Various Essays

  • ✂️ Tips to Shorten an Essay

🔗 References

🔢 what is essay word count & why does it matter.

As you will quickly notice at school, college, or university, every assignment contains specific instructions that cover the word count your home task should include.

Why are they important?

This is done primarily to minimize your effort and help you plan the working schedule. For instance, you will understand that you need to reserve 2 days for a 3,000 -word essay and can manage a 500 -word essay in 2 or 3 hours.

Besides, the word count sets the scope for your research; you will surely need to check fewer literary sources for a 500-word essay and visit a library a couple of times to write a large-scale 5,000-word study.

In other words, the word count of your essay task sets the limits for your study effort and gives you hints about the depth of research you need to conduct to meet the professor's requirements.

A practical guide may also help you determine the time and scope of various academic assignments . Here is a comparative table with word counts for assignments at different study levels.

✂️ Tips to Reduce Word Count in an Essay

If you're not ready to use a word count reducer and want to do everything manually, here are a couple of workable techniques for word count optimization.

  • Avoid redundant beginnings . It's good practice to start a sentence with a subject. This way, you will avoid extensive "running starts," such as "as a matter of fact," "summing the presented evidence," etc. Your sentences will be simpler to read and free from redundant phrasing.
  • Use active voice . Passive-voice phrases always add a couple of redundant words to a sentence. If you don't really need to disguise the doer of the action, you should use active voice only. You'll see how neat and clean your text will sound.
  • Remove adjectives and adverbs . Adjectives and adverbs are frequently used in literary language, as they add vivid details and shades of meaning to notional words. However, they often create clutter in academic writing and are fully avoidable in most cases. So, you should consider removing most of them to make the text more readable and shorter.
  • Don't exceed 25 words in a sentence . Academic writers are often tempted to sound more scholarly with long, overloaded sentences, including many compounds. In reality, such writing efforts rarely pay off, as they confuse the readers and disguise the core message the writer wanted to deliver. Thus, it's better to divide long sentences into several parts. Using this trick, you can avoid redundant transitions and simplify the content flow.
  • One idea at a time . A logical progression of an academic text is a vital criterion of readability. Thus, you should explain relationships between variables or focus on one supporting argument at a time, avoiding a discussion of several factors in one go. This technique will improve your text's comprehension score and free readers from overly complex argumentation, causing a cognitive overload.

In all other cases – a lack of time, no desire to go through the entire text again – welcome to our word reduction tool that will make your editing job a breeze. Try our title maker and paraphraser to write and polish your essay quickly.

❓ Word Count Reducer FAQ

❓ how to count words in an essay.

It's pretty easy to control your word count in an essay. You should activate this function in your Word file, and a small tab at the bottom of your page will update you about the document's current word count as you type the essay's content. You can also click on "Statistics" in the Word menu to learn additional statistics about your text, such as the number of characters with and without spaces and the number of lines, sentences, and paragraphs you currently have.

❓ What is the word count for a college essay?

Word count is a specific number of words (or a range of words) that your professor assigns for writing. For instance, your university tutor may require students to write from 1,000 to 1,500 words in one essay. Thus, you can't compose fewer than 1,000 words (the paper should be at least 1,001 words), and you shouldn't write more than 1,500 words. A standard threshold for exceeding the assigned word count is 10% (so it's okay to submit a 1,650-word essay).

❓ How to reduce word count in an essay?

There are many techniques for word count reduction, such as cutting the articles, conjunctions, transition phrases, and running starts from the text. You may also consider changing passive-voice phrases to active voice or replacing some complex, sophisticated phrases with simpler words.

❓ What does a summarizer do?

A free text compressor available on our website can reduce the word count of your essay by removing redundant words that don't hold any vital meaning and can be removed without losing the text's quality. You can reduce the word count and combine several sentences into one automatically to achieve high-quality text reduction.

  • How to reduce word count without reducing content
  • How to Increase or Decrease Your Paper’s Word Count
  • Summarizing - Academic Integrity at MIT
  • Summarizing - University of Toronto Writing Advice
  • Writer's Manual: Academic Summary - LibGuides UU

how to reduce the word count of an essay

How to Shorten an Essay?

Essay writing can be very challenging. A student who’s writing an essay should come up with the right logical structure, figure out what types of evidence you’re going to use, choose an appropriate style, etc. Besides, all this hard work may lead to a moment of frustration.

You may put a lot of effort into writing your brilliant draft, and then you may realize that you need to get rid of something to meet the word count requirements. The more effort you invest in the writing process, the more difficult it can be to figure out what you should remove.

No matter how challenging this task can be, educators think that students must be able to write concisely and avoid redundancy. Therefore, word count requirements can be very strict. For instance, when writing a college application essay , you should be able to fit all your thoughts into a 500-word limit.

While making your essay shorter, you should also make sure that it will still be impressive. To shorten your essay properly, you should know what to focus on, and this simple guide will help you.

How to reduce essay word count

  • Identify irrelevant content
  • Cut down on prepositions
  • Eliminate the sentences that don’t add value
  • Remove unnecessary modifiers and qualifiers
  • Remove weaker paragraphs
  • Eliminate redundant words and phrases
  • Merge sentences by combining their meaning

📌 Shorten your essay by removing irrelevant content

The key to shortening your essay without making it weaker is to make sure that everything that you write is perfectly relevant. However, it may not be easy to get rid of irrelevant content in your essay because if you didn’t consider it somewhat relevant, you wouldn’t include it, in the first place. If you want to get a good grade, you may add various details and explanations to make your essay more engaging.

Including some background information and details is actually a great solution if you want to impress your audience with an informative essay, but we recommend that you think twice before writing any additional information because you should also follow the word count requirements.

Ask yourself, do you really need to include this information? Is it perfectly relevant? Is it necessary to include when writing about your topic? Does it contribute to the overall meaning?

📌 Use prepositions moderately

Prepositions are very useful words because they can help you create a smooth flow of thoughts and put words together to communicate complex ideas. If you take a look at prepositional sentences in your essay, you may realize that many of such sentences won’t make any sense if you remove prepositions from them.

Although prepositional sentences can be very useful, they also have their flip side: they make your essay longer. Given that rewriting such sentences without prepositions can be impossible, a good solution is to remove such phrases completely.

📌 Apply the ‘zoom out’ technique

This approach can be very effective if you realize that you need to shorten your essay significantly. For instance, if you should shorten your essay by 200 or 300 words, this is the right approach. This method is quite simple.

The traditional college essay structure involves writing more general statements first and then adding more specific statements. By moving from general to specific, you can create a proper logical structure so there’s no surprise that many tutors and guides recommend this approach.

When editing your essay, you can see more or less specific information, and the most specific elements of your essay are examples. Although you may want to use more examples to make your essay more unique, if you need to shorten it, you can leave just a few vivid examples and get rid of all the other examples that are not really important.

Zoom out and paint the picture with broad strokes, focusing on the general information. This way, you might be able to shorten your essay considerably.

📌 Get rid of modifiers, qualifiers, adverbs and adjectives

Let’s face it, some verbs can be easily eliminated from your paper without ruining the context. It’s also important to keep in mind the importance of avoiding unnecessary generalization in essay writing. Unnecessary generalization makes your essay weaker. Qualifiers and modifiers can help you avoid generalizations by slightly changing the overall meaning of a sentence.

Words like “some,” “often,” “possibly,” “could,” “sometimes,” “completely,” and others can make your writing more nuanced. However, these words might also make your essay longer, and usually, you can remove them without changing the general meaning of the sentence. Therefore, we recommend that you don’t overuse such words when writing and remove some of them when editing.

📌 Remove the weakest paragraphs to reduce the word count

Another approach that can help you write a strong essay that meets strict word count requirements is to intentionally exceed the word limits when writing so that you can remove entire paragraphs when editing. This is especially helpful if you have to write a really short essay of 200 words .

A great thing about this approach is that you force yourself to admit that some things that you write are much better than others so you can consider your college essay from a teacher’s perspective.

You may want to remove paragraphs that lack references or have references to unreliable sources. You may also think of what paragraphs are the least convincing. Make sure to leave the strongest paragraphs that actually contribute to the topic and that can impress your audience.

📌 Remove redundant words to stay under a word limit

When writing your paper, you may use some unnecessary words that don’t add any meaning. For example, here is a sentence that can be shortened easily: “When writing essays, you should make your essays concise so they won’t be too long.” Here, you can remove the second word “essays,” as well as the end of the sentence because if your essay is concise, it means that it isn’t too long.

For instance, a shortened sentence may look like this: “When writing essays, you should make them concise.” Although the new sentence is just a little shorter, if you remove redundant words in the entire essay, the difference in length might surprise you.

📌 Merge sentences by combining their meaning

To shorten your essay without damaging it, you should make sure that you convey your thoughts concisely. Concise writing will not only help you meet all the requirements but also make your essay more straightforward and easy to read. When editing your essay, pay attention to consecutive sentences that focus on the same idea.

Try to say the same with fewer words by combining the meaning of two sentences and merging them into one. Just make sure that the final sentence isn’t too long because long complex sentences will make your essay difficult to read.

No matter if you’re a high school, college or university student, the writing process is difficult by itself, and it can be especially difficult when dealing with strict requirements regarding the word count. In this helpful guide, we considered a few effective methods that can help you shorten your essay without damaging its meaning.

There are many things you can get rid of while also keeping your academic paper informative and impressive. Moreover, shortening and eliminating unnecessary things can help you improve your essay, making it easier to read, straightforward, logically consistent and more digestible for a reader.

In case if shortening an essay seems like an unbearable task, you can turn to an essay writing company to get it written from scratch or copy-edited down to the required word count.

10 Ways to Increase Your Essay Word Count (AI Included)

10 Ways to Increase Your Essay Word Count (AI Included)

Table of contents

how to reduce the word count of an essay

One of the biggest challenges students face is writing long-form essays of 2,000 words or more.

Someone brought this up at a recent webinar I attended, and I couldn't help but think back to my freshman year. Several years ago, I had to write a long essay on an interesting but unfamiliar subject. It took me a lot longer than it should.

After writing hundreds of articles, essays and reports, I've developed my own list of 'smart hacks' to help increase word count on any written piece. 

Instantly increase your word count with this FREE AI tool > Instantly increase your word count with this FREE AI tool >

Let's dive into the word count expansion strategies I use today when I write various texts.

How NOT to increase word count

Adding fluff words.

Adding meaningless words only confuses the core arguments and distracts the evaluator. Whatever merit your actual content may have had will be obscured by a mountain of meaningless words.

The sentence in my essay read,

"Violent acts by adults are often caused by childhood exposure to violence.".  

If I try to forcedly add fluff words to expand the text, my sentence would sound stretched:

“Violent acts are often associated with the fact that adults who commit violent acts - acts that are seen as savage, harsh, rough, physically abusive, or otherwise unacceptable in society - have been exposed to similar harsh or extreme violence during their childhoods or when they were young”.

Voice and tone

Although passive voice makes a sentence longer, I have found that my writing is much sharper when I use active voice. Also, do not confuse the need to use a formal or academic tone with passive voice.

Quoting without context

This one is like digging yourself into a hole. I quoted so many out-of-context references that I found my essay running on all sorts of tangents. After spending hours trying to connect the dots between the tangents, I ended up having to rewrite the entire piece because I was unable to justify the distracting content. 

Mindless paraphrasing

You hear it from your professor, and spew it back at her. Mindlessly repeating content in different sections of an essay - as if your teacher wouldn't notice, won't really help you ace your courses.

Even more mistakes

After asking some of my classmates, I found out that some of them had resorted to even worse hacks that eventually got them in trouble:

  • Using filler words - In order to fill more pages, some diverge from the specified format and increase fonts, margins, and spacing. You will lose credibility if you do this, and you will also lose points if you deviate from the writing style specified.
  • Plagiarism - Plagiarizing large chunks from others' essays or research papers was not only seen as lazy, but it was a fast way from a not-so-great grade to a failed grade.
  • Other sneaky tricks - These included whitening out gibberish text and increasing the size of periods. Teachers have seen it all and know every trick in the book.

The right way to increase word count

Eventually, my word count increased in a way that makes each word actually count (pardon the pun), and it turns out there are some pretty cool tricks to do that.

With the right tools and techniques, you spend less time on the heavy lifting, more time on the actual writing, and at the end of the day, you have a much more comprehensive essay that is a delight to read. 

1. Use an AI writing tool

Skip the manual paraphrasing and use a smart AI writing tool. For example, I added almost 50 words to a 125-word paragraph using Wordtune’s text expand feature .

how to reduce the word count of an essay

How to add more sentences to a paragraph

One method to expand your word count is to find short paragraphs and adding more sentences that clarify what they mean. This task used to be pretty frustrating, but with the use of AI it's made simple. Start by going over the essay, and notice if there's a paragraph that stands out in terms of being lean and overly simplified. Paste that paragraph into the Wordtune editor, and click the 'Plus' icon.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

You'll be able to expand the article in any number of ways, including adding a statistical fact, a joke, example, analogy, or a simple continuation of your idea. Then, simply scroll through the different suggestions that AI produces, and find the best one.

2. Take advantage of outlines

It may seem counter-intuitive, but completing your outline can help you meet your word count goal.

Say you need to turn a 200-word article into a 1,500-word essay. Make an outline of the article before trying to tackle this seemingly impossible task of writing the whole piece.This will give you a clearer picture of how your entire thesis works and how to logically support it.

As an example, suppose we're writing an essay on why kids shouldn't play phone games.

To begin, you need to summarize your message in a few sentences. For example:

‍ “Kids have susceptible brains, and games can change the whole chemistry of their brains in a bad way, causing them to go off on tantrums and screaming fits. Moreover, these games form addictive habits that will persist when the kids become older. By continuing to play phone games, the kids fail to develop emotionally, and may become unsocial introverted people. Moreover, there are signs that games make kids more violent and emotionally unstable. Since phones are always at reach, kids can continuously play throughout the day, not stopping even when eating lunch or when attending a school class.”

Before expanding it, write an outline to get a sense of its structure and flow. As a result, you can easily determine how much text is needed for each section, which ones require expanded text, and which ones can be kept brief.  This clarity not only helps me reduce anxiety, but also gives me a clear plan of action to finish this essay!

For example, for the paragraph on video games, my outline would look something like this:

Introduction (include statistics and research to argue that video games are harmful for kids) and state the thesis (250 words) Negative effects of video games on children: first build larger categories and then substantiate with smaller points, evidence and data within each point: - Effects on emotional development (200 words) - Effects on physical development (200 words) - Effects on social development (200 words) - Effects on intellectual development (200 words) Give counter-views Cite research that talks about potential positive effects of video games, if used the proper way and under supervision (250 words) Give solutions State why parents find it so hard to keep kids away from video games, especially mobile video games, and offer concrete solutions to set better boundaries with kids for video game usage (250 words) Conclusion Offer a strong conclusion that brings all of the essay together in a summary (250 words)

Note that I’ve planned to write a few hundred more words than the prescribed word limit, so I have scope to edit and tighten later on. 

3. Expand your text with intros and conclusions

I use this method all the time to get unstuck and write longer articles without worrying about word counts.

Let's say you finish expanding your outline, and the article is still short a few hundred words.

Two places you should consider expanding are the introduction and conclusion.

How does this work?

  • In the introduction and conclusion, you can add free-flowing stories, ideas and paragraphs, without having to validate each sentence with technical reference, sources and quotes.
  • You can use anecdotes, personal experiences, news articles, and research findings to introduce your topic, or to close it.
  • You can also go into detail about why you were motivated to explore the topic in more depth and why it has helped you to develop your argument. We wrote about essay hooks in more detail here, so be sure to check it out.
  • Remind readers why this entire argument matters at the human level in the conclusion. This is done by repeating the topic, the core of your argument, and why you have justified your thesis. 

Add these elements to your introduction and conclusion, and you will quickly reach your essay quota.

Here's an example from the Wordtune blog of an anecdote placed as part of the intro:

how to reduce the word count of an essay

4. Use examples to illustrate your point

It is always helpful to provide examples to illustrate complex academic or technical points. As well as adding color and descriptiveness to your own words, examples help your arguments come to life in a way that academic writing cannot. Having read several essays about the same topic, your evaluator will probably find it enjoyable to read something more creative and genuine. 

Examples also help readers visualize your narrative. The situations can be real or imagined, but they must be authentic, relatable, and most importantly, relevant to your topic. Providing examples from your real-life experience will demonstrate to the teacher that you understand your topic.

I started this article by describing my experience as a freshman. The challenges I faced as a student are similar to those you are currently facing, so sharing my journey will help you learn from my mistakes.

5. Invest in serious research 

Research is the most effective way to increase a paper's word count. 

The more research you conduct, the more ideas, perspectives, and information you have to base your arguments on. 

Research takes time and effort, which you may or may not have. 

Here's where my smart tools come into play.

No matter how long a paper is, Wordtune Read will give you all the key highlights.

The following is a composite screenshot of how Wordtune Read summarized the effects of video games on children from a long and complex article. The key highlights on the right help you distill the core messages of the research in minutes, condensing hours of reading into minutes.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

In just a few steps, you can add at least two supporting arguments or stats for each point you have in your outline. And just like that, you have several hundred very relevant words, added almost effortlessly to your essay.

6. Ask 'Why' questions

At this stage, the research has already provided you with some solid perspectives, but there's nothing like adding some original perspectives to the existing body of research. Asking ‘why’ questions is an effective way to do this. In addition to strengthening your arguments, it will also enhance your essay with relevant and original content.

Think back to the example of the negative effects of video games on children. Let's say one of the arguments you have is "phone games cause emotional issues". Use a series of 'why' questions to dig deeper into the text. 

Ask questions like: "why is that true?", "Why is it important?", etc. For each answer, ask another why question and develop some original angles based on the insights that may emerge. 

While it beats manual paraphrasing in terms of speed, I felt it also improved the overall quality of the writing.

7. Address the counter view

It's a foolproof way to score brownie points with tutors and also add some value - and word count - to your essay. 

Counter views or counterpoints are positions diametrically opposed to your own.

I argue, for example, that video games negatively affect children in the essay about video games. There is always some literature available (and there is always some literature available) on the counter-side of why and under what circumstances video games can actually have a positive impact on children. I am able to write a pretty solid section on that topic. 

By balancing the pros and cons of both arguments, I will also be able to bridge the two points of view.

Just like that, you've added about 200 words to your essay!

8. Use quotes and references

While the bibliography section doesn’t usually count towards the overall essay word count, there are some easy tricks you can use to maximize the references. Once you are done with the essay, run through your list of citations and find interesting quotes that you may have missed, which you can now incorporate.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

9. Get feedback from a friend

If you're like me, working on the same essay for a long time with complete immersion means you develop blind spots to obvious misses and flaws in your text. This could be especially problematic for non-native English speakers .

Ask a trusted friend or peer to look over your essay again. Share your essay on Gdoc with your friends and find out if they spot something that seems missing, out of place, or that stands out like a sore thumb.

Also, ask them to question your assumptions in the essay - this may give you new angles and perspectives to explore, thus expanding the word count even further.

Your friends will help you find the problematic paragraphs in your writing and make them more concise and effective .

10. Add text while editing

Once you have finished writing your essay, you can use the review stage to edit and add text to your essay.

This is another great opportunity to use your AI writing tool, and get suggestions for ways to make your sentences more fluent . You can also replace superfluous words with stronger vocabulary, and pick alternative ways to word sentences that contain repetitive words.

Try and spot long, convoluted sentences and break them up to smaller sentences.

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Keep it long and interesting

Essays that meet the prescribed criteria, including word count, indicate to your teachers that you not only possess subject matter knowledge, but also writing, grammar, logic, research, and communication skills.

You can find interesting angles even in the most mundane sounding topics if you challenge yourself to do the work and not worry too much about the word count. With the 11 smart hacks - including use of the smart writing tools - essay writing and meeting the specified word count becomes much easier! 

Learning how to expand a text in an interesting way - and not just by adding fluff - makes you a better writer regardless of the format - essays, reports, statements of purpose - even books! 

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How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)   

essay introduction

The introduction of an essay plays a critical role in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. It sets the stage for the rest of the essay, establishes the tone and style, and motivates the reader to continue reading. 

Table of Contents

What is an essay introduction , what to include in an essay introduction, how to create an essay structure , step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction , how to write an introduction paragraph , how to write a hook for your essay , how to include background information , how to write a thesis statement .

  • Argumentative Essay Introduction Example: 
  • Expository Essay Introduction Example 

Literary Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Check and revise – checklist for essay introduction , key takeaways , frequently asked questions .

An introduction is the opening section of an essay, paper, or other written work. It introduces the topic and provides background information, context, and an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the work. 1 The key is to be concise and to the point, providing enough information to engage the reader without delving into excessive detail. 

The essay introduction is crucial as it sets the tone for the entire piece and provides the reader with a roadmap of what to expect. Here are key elements to include in your essay introduction: 

  • Hook : Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question to engage the reader. This could be a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a compelling anecdote. 
  • Background information : Provide context and background information to help the reader understand the topic. This can include historical information, definitions of key terms, or an overview of the current state of affairs related to your topic. 
  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your essay. 

Before we get into how to write an essay introduction, we need to know how it is structured. The structure of an essay is crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting them clearly and logically. It is divided as follows: 2  

  • Introduction:  The introduction should grab the reader’s attention with a hook, provide context, and include a thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.  
  • Body:  The body should consist of focused paragraphs that support your thesis statement using evidence and analysis. Each paragraph should concentrate on a single central idea or argument and provide evidence, examples, or analysis to back it up.  
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion should summarize the main points and restate the thesis differently. End with a final statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid new information or arguments. 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: 

  • Start with a Hook : Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic. The hook should pique the reader’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. 
  • Provide Background Information : This helps the reader understand the relevance and importance of the topic. 
  • State Your Thesis Statement : The last sentence is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and directly address the topic of your essay. 
  • Preview the Main Points : This gives the reader an idea of what to expect and how you will support your thesis. 
  • Keep it Concise and Clear : Avoid going into too much detail or including information not directly relevant to your topic. 
  • Revise : Revise your introduction after you’ve written the rest of your essay to ensure it aligns with your final argument. 

Here’s an example of an essay introduction paragraph about the importance of education: 

Education is often viewed as a fundamental human right and a key social and economic development driver. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is the key to unlocking a wide range of opportunities and benefits for individuals, societies, and nations. In today’s constantly evolving world, education has become even more critical. It has expanded beyond traditional classroom learning to include digital and remote learning, making education more accessible and convenient. This essay will delve into the importance of education in empowering individuals to achieve their dreams, improving societies by promoting social justice and equality, and driving economic growth by developing a skilled workforce and promoting innovation. 

This introduction paragraph example includes a hook (the quote by Nelson Mandela), provides some background information on education, and states the thesis statement (the importance of education). 

This is one of the key steps in how to write an essay introduction. Crafting a compelling hook is vital because it sets the tone for your entire essay and determines whether your readers will stay interested. A good hook draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.  

  • Avoid Dry Fact : Instead of simply stating a bland fact, try to make it engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about the benefits of exercise, you could start with a startling statistic like, “Did you know that regular exercise can increase your lifespan by up to seven years?” 
  • Avoid Using a Dictionary Definition : While definitions can be informative, they’re not always the most captivating way to start an essay. Instead, try to use a quote, anecdote, or provocative question to pique the reader’s interest. For instance, if you’re writing about freedom, you could begin with a quote from a famous freedom fighter or philosopher. 
  • Do Not Just State a Fact That the Reader Already Knows : This ties back to the first point—your hook should surprise or intrigue the reader. For Here’s an introduction paragraph example, if you’re writing about climate change, you could start with a thought-provoking statement like, “Despite overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe in the reality of climate change.” 

Including background information in the introduction section of your essay is important to provide context and establish the relevance of your topic. When writing the background information, you can follow these steps: 

  • Start with a General Statement:  Begin with a general statement about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific focus. For example, when discussing the impact of social media, you can begin by making a broad statement about social media and its widespread use in today’s society, as follows: “Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of users worldwide.” 
  • Define Key Terms : Define any key terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers but are essential for understanding your argument. 
  • Provide Relevant Statistics:  Use statistics or facts to highlight the significance of the issue you’re discussing. For instance, “According to a report by Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025.” 
  • Discuss the Evolution:  Mention previous research or studies that have been conducted on the topic, especially those that are relevant to your argument. Mention key milestones or developments that have shaped its current impact. You can also outline some of the major effects of social media. For example, you can briefly describe how social media has evolved, including positives such as increased connectivity and issues like cyberbullying and privacy concerns. 
  • Transition to Your Thesis:  Use the background information to lead into your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your essay. For example, “Given its pervasive influence, it is crucial to examine the impact of social media on mental health.” 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, or other type of academic writing. It appears near the end of the introduction. Here’s how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Identify the topic:  Start by identifying the topic of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the importance of exercise for overall health, your topic is “exercise.” 
  • State your position:  Next, state your position or claim about the topic. This is the main argument or point you want to make. For example, if you believe that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining good health, your position could be: “Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health.” 
  • Support your position:  Provide a brief overview of the reasons or evidence that support your position. These will be the main points of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about the importance of exercise, you could mention the physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and the role of exercise in disease prevention. 
  • Make it specific:  Ensure your thesis statement clearly states what you will discuss in your essay. For example, instead of saying, “Exercise is good for you,” you could say, “Regular exercise, including cardiovascular and strength training, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.” 

Examples of essay introduction 

Here are examples of essay introductions for different types of essays: 

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example:  

Topic: Should the voting age be lowered to 16? 

“The question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 has sparked nationwide debate. While some argue that 16-year-olds lack the requisite maturity and knowledge to make informed decisions, others argue that doing so would imbue young people with agency and give them a voice in shaping their future.” 

Expository Essay Introduction Example  

Topic: The benefits of regular exercise 

“In today’s fast-paced world, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. From improving physical health to boosting mental well-being, the benefits of exercise are numerous and far-reaching. This essay will examine the various advantages of regular exercise and provide tips on incorporating it into your daily routine.” 

Text: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 

“Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is a timeless classic that explores themes of racism, injustice, and morality in the American South. Through the eyes of young Scout Finch, the reader is taken on a journey that challenges societal norms and forces characters to confront their prejudices. This essay will analyze the novel’s use of symbolism, character development, and narrative structure to uncover its deeper meaning and relevance to contemporary society.” 

  • Engaging and Relevant First Sentence : The opening sentence captures the reader’s attention and relates directly to the topic. 
  • Background Information : Enough background information is introduced to provide context for the thesis statement. 
  • Definition of Important Terms : Key terms or concepts that might be unfamiliar to the audience or are central to the argument are defined. 
  • Clear Thesis Statement : The thesis statement presents the main point or argument of the essay. 
  • Relevance to Main Body : Everything in the introduction directly relates to and sets up the discussion in the main body of the essay. 

how to reduce the word count of an essay

Writing a strong introduction is crucial for setting the tone and context of your essay. Here are the key takeaways for how to write essay introduction: 3  

  • Hook the Reader : Start with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. This could be a compelling question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or an anecdote. 
  • Provide Background : Give a brief overview of the topic, setting the context and stage for the discussion. 
  • Thesis Statement : State your thesis, which is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be concise, clear, and specific. 
  • Preview the Structure : Outline the main points or arguments to help the reader understand the organization of your essay. 
  • Keep it Concise : Avoid including unnecessary details or information not directly related to your thesis. 
  • Revise and Edit : Revise your introduction to ensure clarity, coherence, and relevance. Check for grammar and spelling errors. 
  • Seek Feedback : Get feedback from peers or instructors to improve your introduction further. 

The purpose of an essay introduction is to give an overview of the topic, context, and main ideas of the essay. It is meant to engage the reader, establish the tone for the rest of the essay, and introduce the thesis statement or central argument.  

An essay introduction typically ranges from 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 1,000-word essay, the introduction would be roughly 50-100 words. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the overall length of the essay.

An essay introduction is critical in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. To ensure its effectiveness, consider incorporating these key elements: a compelling hook, background information, a clear thesis statement, an outline of the essay’s scope, a smooth transition to the body, and optional signposting sentences.  

The process of writing an essay introduction is not necessarily straightforward, but there are several strategies that can be employed to achieve this end. When experiencing difficulty initiating the process, consider the following techniques: begin with an anecdote, a quotation, an image, a question, or a startling fact to pique the reader’s interest. It may also be helpful to consider the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how.   For instance, an anecdotal opening could be structured as follows: “As I ascended the stage, momentarily blinded by the intense lights, I could sense the weight of a hundred eyes upon me, anticipating my next move. The topic of discussion was climate change, a subject I was passionate about, and it was my first public speaking event. Little did I know , that pivotal moment would not only alter my perspective but also chart my life’s course.” 

Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your introduction paragraph is crucial to grab your reader’s attention. To achieve this, avoid using overused phrases such as “In this paper, I will write about” or “I will focus on” as they lack originality. Instead, strive to engage your reader by substantiating your stance or proposition with a “so what” clause. While writing your thesis statement, aim to be precise, succinct, and clear in conveying your main argument.  

To create an effective essay introduction, ensure it is clear, engaging, relevant, and contains a concise thesis statement. It should transition smoothly into the essay and be long enough to cover necessary points but not become overwhelming. Seek feedback from peers or instructors to assess its effectiveness. 


  • Cui, L. (2022). Unit 6 Essay Introduction.  Building Academic Writing Skills . 
  • West, H., Malcolm, G., Keywood, S., & Hill, J. (2019). Writing a successful essay.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education ,  43 (4), 609-617. 
  • Beavers, M. E., Thoune, D. L., & McBeth, M. (2023). Bibliographic Essay: Reading, Researching, Teaching, and Writing with Hooks: A Queer Literacy Sponsorship. College English, 85(3), 230-242. 

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Jessica Bennett

Jessica Bennett

Opinion Contributing Editor

The Internet Should Feel Shame Over Kate Middleton

Nope, it wasn’t a BBL . She’s not dead or in a coma or bulimic or using a body double . She’s not getting a divorce. It’s not that Charles is dead or that Ozempic is involved. Catherine, Princess of Wales, has cancer.

Kate made the revelation of her diagnosis by video on Friday , two months after undergoing abdominal surgery and largely disappearing from public view. She asked the public for “some time, space and privacy.” As if.

The public, in turn, should feel very, very stupid.

I count myself among that group. I joked with friends about Kate’s whereabouts. I reveled in making fun of the utter ineptitude of the palace’s P.R. “strategy.” I laughed out loud at the idea of my colleagues interviewing her look-alikes. Where was Kate? I didn’t know; I didn’t even really care, but it was fun to talk about. It was a story that crossed politics (everyone could talk about it), that took us out of our sad reality (Donald Trump, lawsuits, Gaza, the election …).

And, of course, the algorithms rewarded it. A mind-boggling churn of articles and TikToks and headlines and memes, flooding our feeds and our minds. Once we saw one, they kept being served — piping hot, the more outlandish, the better.

We live in a time when it has become increasingly difficult to decipher what is real from what is manufactured, when at least half of Americans believe in some kind of conspiracy theory . It’s easy to pin that on MAGA — with its Taylor Swift-fueled mania — or talk about how the technology (that is, A.I.) is spreading misinformation and deepfakes. But none of us are detached from that reality.

It’s all good and fun , until conspiracy theories begin to contaminate conversations about elections , health care and climate ; until they affect our perception of what’s truth ; until we realize just how profitable trading in them can become ; until a part of us starts to believe them.

It’s not just journalism or social media that’s the problem; it’s that our brains are being hijacked. This is our entertainment now. It’s how we find meaning . Being able to separate engagement farming from real information is only going to become harder.

As I was writing this, I received a text from a friend: “But how do we know the cancer diagnosis is true? Why wouldn’t they have said that months ago?”

Stop, just stop. This isn’t fun anymore.

Jessica Grose

Jessica Grose

Opinion Writer

The Royal Family Doth Explain Too Much

Catherine, Princess of Wales, deserves her privacy, as I wrote a few weeks ago . After she announced on Friday that she has cancer , it bears repeating. Even though Kate is a princess, she does not owe the public a laparoscopic view of her innards.

Members of the public have spent months spinning sordid and conspiratorial conjecture about her health and whereabouts. Their willingness and ability to do so reveals the extent to which the British royal family is caught in an existential crisis of its own making.

The palace’s communication blunders — which included a poorly photoshopped Mother’s Day picture — demonstrate that the family hasn’t quite figured out how to handle the current media landscape. Perhaps as a result, the public no longer really knows what the royals are for or what they owe their people.

Queen Elizabeth’s death in 2022 rattled the British royal family. She was fairly disciplined about messaging: The family mantra was famously “Never complain, never explain.” This included information about the health of family members. According to Alexander Larman in Time magazine , “The Queen Mother was afflicted with cancer twice, once in her 60s and once in her 80s, but the news was kept from the public until well after her death in 2002.”

Elizabeth ruled in a different time, when the monarchy was more popular and the media was more deferential. (Social media didn’t exist for a majority of her reign.) After multiple scandals and more aggressive interrogation into their finances, there has been more pointed questioning about whether the royals have outlasted their purpose .

Now British support for the monarchy is at an all-time low . Young Britons are less supportive of the monarchy than older Britons, though Kate and Prince William were, as of January, the most-liked members of the royal family .

And yet, even as someone who finds it ridiculous that the monarchy still exists, I think the spirit of “Never complain, never explain” is still the royals’ best bet for survival. The initial announcement about Kate’s health should have sufficed, and it was a mistake to dispute the reporting of specific journalists or to release pictures, which only added fuel to the conspiratorial pyre. Let the public yammer, and let Kate give health information as she feels comfortable.

But the bigger question — What are the royals for? — is one that the family is going to have to figure out how to answer if they want to keep the monarchy afloat.


Zeynep Tufekci

Zeynep Tufekci

Opinion Columnist

Kate Middleton Is Yet Another Victim of the Royal Circus

After months of secrecy, followed by a global sport of intense speculation, Catherine, Princess of Wales, revealed on Friday that she is undergoing cancer treatment.

As if the medical ordeal weren’t difficult enough for her family, the public side of this episode has revealed, once again, the way Britain’s royal family has become the center of a media circus, now spreading globally to the masses, thanks to social media.

Princess Diana was killed during a paparazzi chase; her two sons’ lives were further damaged by invasive and destructive interest since they were children.

But things have gotten worse in the social media age.

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, was hounded into suicidal ideation by persistent vicious and racist coverage during her first pregnancy and was treated like a liar or a drama queen in the British media when she revealed it, and internet mobs gleefully participated. Social media has been full of conspiracies about her and her children for years.

The same forces turned Kate Middleton into a symbol of counterpoint, sanctifying her as the perfect princess .

All the pressure to symbolize perfection probably contributed to the baffling actions of the royal minders who tried to keep the news of her cancer under wraps. (And why is it always the royal women who are thrown under the bus? Maybe Prince William could have apologized for the doctored photos, rather than his wife, who was undergoing cancer treatment.) Her three children are in school, and whatever gossip circulates about their mother will eventually reach their young ears.

It’s clear that the British royal system has taken yet another step after having evolved from a traditional monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. Currently, it is practically a zoo enclosure in which members of the royal family are trapped, for the purpose of entertainment, distraction and political and symbolic fights. They may have access to luxury and wealth, but they have little power or freedom.

And they are no longer shielded by the presence of Queen Elizabeth, who functioned as a symbol of stability, by virtue of her extremely long reign. Social media has now reduced the size of their enclosure and enlarged the number of people who can participate in creating a spectacle.

The results are inhuman for everyone, including the ones purportedly at the top of the hierarchy.

Flying Remains Very Safe, but Alarm Bells Are Sounding

Scott Kirby, the chief executive of United Airlines, recently sent a “message on safety” to United’s customers, acknowledging that the airline “experienced a number of incidents” — eight in two weeks , five of them on Boeing planes. The incidents, he said, were unrelated but “have our attention and have sharpened our focus.”

In many ways, what Kirby is describing is a paradox. Multiple aviation safety experts told The Times that there has been no rise in safety incidents overall, though they do happen. I found the same thing when I downloaded incident databases from the National Transportation Safety Board, where such things are meticulously logged, and checked last year’s news from sources that follow this topic. I didn’t notice a recent uptick or a systematic pattern.

The data show that commercial flying has never been safer. We’ve gone 15 years in the United States without a single fatal crash .

And yet there are alarm bells going off. The scandals and near-misses over the past few years are all signaling that things are not going in the right direction.

We’ve had the Boeing Max debacle , killing 346 people , and now the Justice Department is reported to be opening a criminal inquiry into the company after a hidden plug panel blew out midflight. (Nobody was hurt, but only luck prevented it from being catastrophic.) Boeing recently told Congress that it can’t find some potentially important records detailing work on the panel. Just recently, the F.A.A. administrator, Michael Whitaker, told NBC News that Boeing’s “priorities have been on production, not on safety and quality.”

Safety, like trust, is a hard currency to gain but is easy to lose — and it’s what everything runs on.

To paraphrase Kirby, what these incidents have shown is that both United and Boeing have our attention, and we’ve sharpened our focus. Let’s hope things get better without getting worse.

Farah Stockman

Farah Stockman

Editorial Board Member, reporting from San José, Costa Rica

Biden’s Big Bet on Chips Helps Jobs in the U.S. (and Costa Rica)

President Biden’s announcement on Wednesday of $20 billion in grants and loans to Intel, the computer chip maker, understandably focused on the tens of thousands of American jobs he said would be created in Arizona, New Mexico and Ohio.

But it would be more accurate to talk about the North American jobs that will be created. Other countries in this hemisphere also stand to gain from the bid to bring the manufacturing of computer chips — the oil of the 21st century — closer to home.

For years, computer chip companies around the world have relied on factories in China and Taiwan to assemble and test the tiny electronic brains that run smartphones and supercomputers. As competition with China heats up, this dependency is causing alarm, a feeling that helped push the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act across the finish line in 2022.

The big subsidies pushed by Biden are aimed at restoring American leadership in this critical technology. But it’s not practical to manufacture everything here, given how cheap production has gotten in Asia. Moving production closer and to U.S. allies might be the best we can do. That’s why Biden’s announcement is being celebrated in Costa Rica, the Central American country that is home to the only factory in this hemisphere outside the United States where Intel can assemble and test computer chips.

Intel built it in the 1990s — an investment that transformed the Costa Rican economy by enabling an advanced manufacturing boom. Today, Costa Rica’s biggest export is medical devices, not bananas.

In 2014, Intel sent much of the work it was doing in Costa Rica to Asia, where testing and packaging were cheaper. But Intel kept a skeleton crew in Costa Rica to do research and development. In 2020 the pandemic caused a chip shortage so acute that Intel has fired up its Costa Rican factory again.

I toured that factory recently and can report that it is expanding so fast that a cafeteria has been turned into a new part of the factory floor. If Americans want to quickly reduce their dependency on Asia for computer chips, this place is crucial.

Its importance is underscored by a visit on Thursday by the commerce secretary, Gina Raimondo. It shows the administration understands reality: Semiconductor supply chains are global, and the United States can’t go it alone.

Anna Marks

Opinion Staff Editor

No Sympathy for Nickelodeon

If you were a kid who watched Nickelodeon in the 90s and early 2000s, your world may have been rocked this week by “Quiet on Set: The Dark Side of Kids TV,” a four-episode documentary that appeared on Investigation Discovery. It charts misconduct and abuse that occurred during the production of some of the network’s enduring shows, among them: “All That,” “The Amanda Show,” “Zoey 101” and “Drake & Josh.”

The shows in question were by and large written, produced or created by Dan Schneider, who fostered an atmosphere that many cast members and staffers found disquieting, at the least. Among the allegations: Schneider requested massages from female staff members (which he does not deny ), verbally abused staff members (which he denied to The New York Times in 2021 ) and fostered a culture of egregious gender-based discrimination in an early writers’ room (which he largely denies). The series also examines sexual offenses against children committed by men who worked on and around Schneider’s shows.

While those allegations are deeply disturbing, I’ve been haunted, in particular, by the way “Quiet on Set” asks an adult audience to confront Schneider’s oeuvre, which frequently amounts to fetish content masquerading as children’s television.

As a kid, I watched Schneider shows with jokes based on close-ups of children’s feet, and gags — performed by teenage girls — that overtly suggested ejaculation or masturbation. Back then, the subtext flew right over my head, but Schneider has called the comedy “ totally innocent ” and has claimed that all of these jokes were “written for a kid audience because kids thought they were funny.” Given the brazenness of the material, these claims are not particularly convincing.

After the documentary’s final episode aired on Monday, a noticeably shriveled Schneider posted a performatively apologetic video to his YouTube channel. His most convincing defense amounts to blaming Nickelodeon, which he said placed “many, many levels of scrutiny” over his shows.

While Schneider bears responsibility for what he created, Nickelodeon did entrust him to engineer the DNA of many of its programs. The network did not adequately scrutinize his sets or sufficiently block his content. Ultimately, while Schneider’s shows may have indulged creepiness in the name of humor, Nickelodeon aired them. In this sick partnership, the network had the final say.

David Firestone

David Firestone

Deputy Editor, the Editorial Board

The Global Campaign Against AIDS Gets Some Temporary Relief

Ever since Republicans won control of the House last year, they have put one of the federal government’s most important and lifesaving programs at risk, as the editorial board noted in August. For two decades, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, has saved or lengthened the lives of 25 million people, getting H.I.V. drugs and medical personnel to more than 50 countries. It helped more than five million babies to be born H.I.V.-free.

But after they took over, extremist Republicans in the House decided that the Biden administration was using PEPFAR for a secret agenda to promote abortion overseas. There is zero truth to that — doing so would violate federal law, and no evidence for the charge was ever presented — but pushed by the Heritage Foundation and several anti-abortion groups, House Republicans held up the reauthorization of the program.

That’s why it was a relief to see a one-year extension for the program tacked on near the end of the huge 2024 spending bill that the House unveiled on Thursday . There appears to be a bipartisan agreement to pass the bill in the next few days, averting the threat of a prolonged shutdown and providing important increases in child care programs, Head Start and health research. The PEPFAR extension would authorize the program through March 25, 2025, which would at least postpone the next fight until after this year’s brutal political season.

But even the one-year extension shows how the dishonest Republican theology on abortion threatens the medical work of saving people’s lives on the ground, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Until now, the PEPFAR program has been reauthorized, in bipartisan votes, for five years at a time. That’s a period that sends a message of comfort to other countries that partner with the United States, making it clear that Washington still considers fighting the virus that causes AIDS a global priority.

A one-year extension sends a very different message. It says that fighting AIDS will remain a political struggle, disdained by extremists like those at Heritage who consider it a lifestyle disease . And it says that if Donald Trump and his MAGA band take the reins of power next year, that fight could come to an end.

Binyamin Appelbaum

Binyamin Appelbaum

Editorial Board Member

Biden’s Housing Prescription Is Far Short of a Cure

Let’s start with the good news: In a report published Thursday, the Biden administration does some much-needed table-pounding about the nation’s need for more housing.

The bad news is that the report describes a crisis and prescribes two aspirin.

A dearth of housing has driven housing prices even higher, relative to income, than at the height of the bubble in the early 2000s. The annual Economic Report of the President calculates prices have increased by 50 percent more than household income over the last 20 years.

To address this problem, the United States needs to build as many as four million new homes. But the Biden administration’s proposed remedies are instead focused on providing more financial aid for home buyers, which — without more construction — might just serve to drive up prices.

The White House does have one big idea to increase production. It wants Congress to create a pot of $20 billion to provide rewards to communities that allow more development. But when the federal government really wants local governments to fall in line, it doesn’t just hand out rewards. It also threatens to withhold funding, and that’s not what the administration is proposing.

Even if the White House had Congress on its side, the federal government’s powers are limited. It can’t rewrite local zoning laws. But the White House could do more on its own. Here’s one small idea: Develop a model zoning code, grade every local code against that standard and allow Americans to see where their communities are falling short.

The report also notes in its opening paragraphs that the cost of construction is a big part of the problem, and it then says nothing more about it. That’s too bad, because the government might be able to help. It can provide funding for research on new housing construction techniques. It can provide a market for new products, for example by purchasing prefabricated homes for military bases or for replacement housing after natural disasters. It can offer incentives for simplifying building codes similar to those it plans to offer for zoning reform.

The problem is not just a shortage of housing. It’s also a shortage of imagination and determination.

Peter Coy

The Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple Could Change Tech in a Big Way

Big Tech has faced a lot of legal and regulatory challenges in recent years, but the government’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple, announced Thursday morning, is more than just the latest twist. It’s really big.

If the government gets its way, the walls of Apple’s walled garden will be partially torn down and Apple’s suite of products, built around the omnipresent iPhone, will be a little more like a public utility — a platform that Apple’s rivals can use to reach their customers.

That seems to me like stretching what antitrust law is for. I sympathize with Adam Kovacevich, a tech policy wonk , who wrote on Medium: “People vote with their pocketbooks — and have switched back and forth between Androids and iPhones. So why should the government force iPhones to look more like Androids?”

The Justice Department’s attack is broad and touches on practices ranging from how Apple Wallet works to Alphabet’s payments to Apple for making Google its default search engine to the way texts from Android phones appear as green rather than blue bubbles in Apple Messages.

Apple could have responded to competitive threats by lowering its prices, the government lawsuit says, but instead it imposed “shape-shifting rules and restrictions” that require higher fees, thwart innovation and degrade the user experience.

The lawsuit, joined by 15 states and the District of Columbia, asked a Federal District Court to prevent Apple from doing three things:

Using its control of app distribution to undermine technologies that work across types of phones, such as super apps, which provide several functions in a single app.

Using its proprietary software interfaces to undermine technologies that work across types of phones, such as messaging, smartwatches and digital wallets.

Using the terms and conditions of its contracts to obtain or entrench a monopoly.

Apple, naturally, isn’t happy about that, saying the lawsuit would prevent the company from creating the kind of integrated hardware/software/services technology that sets the company apart.

I understand Apple’s argument. It’s self-serving, of course, but it’s true that antitrust, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What looks like anticompetitive behavior to the government looks like taking care of customers to Apple. This momentous case will be fascinating to watch.

Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens

Directing a Movie Doesn’t Make You a Mideast Authority

In 1978 the English actress Vanessa Redgrave won an Oscar for her role in the film “Julia” and used the occasion to denounce “a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews everywhere.”

Later in the ceremony, the screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky used his own turn onstage to offer a memorable rebuttal : “I would like to suggest to Miss Redgrave,” he said to applause, “that her winning an Academy Award is not a pivotal moment in history, does not require a proclamation, and a simple ‘thank you’ would have sufficed.”

Forty-six years on, history repeated itself.

Last week, Jonathan Glazer, director of the Holocaust-themed film “The Zone of Interest,” accepted the Academy Award for best international feature film and delivered a diatribe to “refute” having his “Jewishness and the Holocaust being hijacked by an occupation which has led to conflict for so many innocent people.”

It took a few days, but the spirit of Chayefsky came roaring back. In a “ Statement From Jewish Hollywood Professionals ,” hundreds of signatories, including the actress Julianna Margulies and the producer Lawrence Bender, denounced Glazer for “drawing a moral equivalence between a Nazi regime that sought to exterminate a race of people, and an Israeli nation that seeks to avert its own extermination,” arguing that it could fuel antisemitism.

Politically speaking, I’m with the signatories. People can have varying views of the war in Gaza, but comparing it with the Holocaust, as Glazer did, is profoundly wrong. Among other differences, Jews did not provoke the Holocaust by murdering, raping and kidnapping German civilians in a deliberate effort to start a war.

But I’m also allergic to what Eli Lake, in a brilliant recent essay in Commentary magazine, called the “ As a Jew ” phenomenon: the habit of prefacing political opinions with a declaration of identity, as if an opinion about Israeli politics (usually, an anti-Israel opinion) somehow becomes more credible and significant because the speaker happens to be Jewish.

It isn’t. Having once had a bar or bat mitzvah does not make one a spokesperson for Jews, much less an authority on the Middle East.

At the 2020 Golden Globes, Ricky Gervais told winners to pick up their awards, give some thanks and then buzz off. (He used a stronger word than “buzz.”) That’s advice to live by in our incessantly political age, when we could use the occasional respite from other people’s opinions — even at the Oscars.

Lydia Polgreen

Lydia Polgreen and Patrick Healy

The Worst Part of the Fearmongering Around a Muslim Judicial Nominee

Patrick Healy , Deputy Opinion Editor

Lydia, what struck me most about your column on Adeel Abdullah Mangi, who is President Biden’s nominee to the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, was the baldness of the Republican smears. What was the worst one?

Lydia Polgreen , Opinion Columnist

The thing from the Senate hearing that was so shocking to me was the casual, almost automatic Republican assumption that Mangi, as a Muslim, might have suspect views of Oct. 7, 2023, or Sept. 11, 2001, and that asking him about them was legitimate. It is classic guilt by association, and the questioning was so reminiscent of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist witch hunts.

But even worse was what the right-wing media machine did with these questions and insinuations. Writing in The Washington Times , the right-wing operative Mike Davis called Mangi “Hamas’s favorite judicial nominee.” An illustration superimposes the Hamas flag over his eyes. It is truly sickening stuff.

Patrick Healy

You write: “For all the Democratic talk about a freedom agenda , the party has not really seized religious liberty, one of Mangi’s core areas of pro bono work, as part of its vision of a pluralistic and inclusive society.” Why do you think this is the case for Democrats?

Lydia Polgreen

There is this unfortunate Democratic tendency to end up on defense rather than affirmatively spelling out their values in contrast with Republicans. Biden has begun to do this since the State of the Union, but it seems rather late in the game. Religious tolerance and freedom are as American as apple pie, and this should be an easy story for Democrats to tell. Democrats are the party that believes, like the founders intended, that freedom of worship without coercion from the state is a bedrock freedom of our country, and that freedom is being threatened by a Republican Party in thrall to deeply un-American ideas inflected with Christian nationalism.

What does it say to you about America in 2024 that putting a highly qualified Muslim American on an appellate court bench is such a hard thing to do?

Islamophobia has been on the rise since Oct. 7, but there is a long history of it. It is not surprising that Republicans would use this line of attack on a Muslim judicial nominee; after all, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, rode to the presidency in part by promising to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. In the early days of the Trump administration, these policies were met with outrage — remember when people went to airports to protest? That feels like another lifetime ago.

Muslims in public life are routinely subjected to suspicion, and Democrats have shown a real willingness to throw their Muslim colleagues to the wolves when they are accused of antisemitism, as the experiences of Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib illustrate. Republicans in the Trump era exercise no such scruples. The fact that this tactic could actually tank Mangi’s nomination illustrates how Islamophobia remains one of the most widely tolerated forms of bigotry.

Ross Douthat

Ross Douthat

Trump Tries to Sell a Normal-ish Second Term

In the debate about what a second Donald Trump term would mean for the stability of American democracy, parsing the “true” meaning of any given Trumpian rhetorical flourish — Was he just predicting a “bloodbath” for the auto industry if Biden wins, or prophesying civil war? — is about 60 times less useful than figuring out who will actually staff a second Trump administration.

Will it be a reprise of Trump’s first few years in office, when a collection of Wall Streeters, generals and stock figures from the pre-Trump G.O.P. filled his cabinet, creating a parallel reality of normal-ish Republican governance alongside White House chaos and presidential rants? Or will it be a reprise of the first term’s last two months, when the normal people slipped away and Trump was left alone to play the authoritarian with a set of enablers and kooks?

After Jan. 6, 2021, it seemed hard to imagine the first reprise happening. Surely nobody normal or establishmentarian would want to work for Trump again, and surely Trump himself would want a team of ruthless populist avengers, eager to push the system to the breaking point. So to envision a second Trump term was to envision an administration staffed by Steve Bannon acolytes and run by acting secretaries too strange for Senate confirmation, all eager for brinkmanship and constitutional crisis.

But that isn’t what Trump is signaling right now. His desperation for donor money as he deals with mounting legal bills has him kissing up to Wall Street financiers. And in a similar spirit, his campaign just leaked its desire to put Republican senators like Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio — classic hawkish internationalists, not Tucker Carlson guests — in charge of the national security bureaucracy.

We’ll know more about how far Trump is willing to take this sales pitch when he unveils his vice-presidential pick. But we won’t know just how many senators or businesspeople are willing to make themselves hostages to Trumpism by joining his administration unless and until he actually wins.

For now, though, whether you find it believable or not, the intended message to Republican donors is clear: Stand by me, open your checkbooks, and I’ll give you the same kind of administration I gave you back in 2017. The populists get the mood music and wild rhetoric and maybe immigration policy, but mostly, those guys still get to run the show.

Deputy Opinion Editor

Sherrod Brown Can Breathe a Little Easier

It worked: The Democratic effort to meddle in Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary in Ohio paid off as Bernie Moreno, a rich guy with no experience in elected office, beat two rivals to win the G.O.P. nomination for a race that will help determine control of the Senate in 2025.

Senator Sherrod Brown, the Democrat up for re-election this fall, can breathe a little easier now that he’ll face Moreno, by my lights the most unproven and vulnerable of the Republicans in Tuesday’s primary. But victory in November is not a slam-dunk for Brown: President Biden’s unpopularity could be a drag on him, and Moreno stands to benefit from MAGA enthusiasm for Donald Trump.

Brown has won three Senate elections since 2006, by margins of six to 12 percentage points; the current race looks like his toughest yet, though Brown allies think Moreno has the greatest chance of imploding.

Economically, culturally and politically, Ohio is more like Missouri now than Virginia, the state I once thought it might evolve to mirror. Brown is the only top statewide elected Democrat left. The race is widely considered a tossup. Democrats’ best bet is to paint Moreno, a former car dealer, as an extremist while pushing Brown’s message — mixing an economic comeback story with an emphasis on abortion rights, which Ohio voters embraced decisively last year in a state constitutional amendment. (Moreno supports a 15-week national abortion ban .)

Democrats wanted Moreno as their opponent so badly that they spent millions on a TV ad pointing out that Trump endorsed Moreno; one Brown ally told me that the campaign has enough opposition research on Moreno to drive up his negative ratings by the fall.

In the end, this race will turn on attitudes about the presidential contest. And that isn’t great for Brown. Trump beat Biden in Ohio by eight points in 2020. Most Trump voters will back Moreno, who also has the support of Ohio’s other senator, J.D. Vance. Biden’s vote could end up being depressed in Ohio by anger over the war in Gaza and inflation.

But Brown is popular and a proven vote getter. I could also see him winning over a slice of voters for Nikki Haley, who won about 160,000 votes on Tuesday in the G.O.P. presidential nomination contest, though she dropped out earlier. Trump’s coattails have been clipped a bit.

Jesse Wegman

Jesse Wegman

Peter Navarro Is Paying for His Contempt for the Law

Peter Navarro may not have stormed the Capitol barricades alongside the other Jan. 6 insurrectionists, but on Tuesday he met the same fate as many of them: Navarro, a former trade adviser to Donald Trump, reported to federal prison in Miami to begin a four-month sentence for contempt of Congress.

In so doing, Navarro became the first Trump White House official to see the inside of a prison cell for actions related to the Jan. 6 attack. May he not be the last.

Navarro’s crime was to ignore subpoenas from the House Select Committee on Jan. 6, which summoned him in 2022 to testify and provide documents about his plan to delay the electoral-vote count. He was convicted in September; on Monday he lost his final bid to stay out of prison during his appeal. Chief Justice John Roberts rejected the request without referring it to the full court. (Pro tip: That means you have a weak case.)

Contempt can seem like an arcane offense. Is it really a crime deserving of incarceration? Yes, because the rule of law depends on the acknowledgment of the authority of the justice system. Navarro’s refusal to even show up before Congress, as other Trump officials who are not currently in prison have done, amounted to a big middle finger to the government. It symbolized the essence of Trumpism: the belief that the law exists to be manipulated for one’s personal benefit — to be held, if you will, in contempt.

Navarro couldn’t say that out loud, so instead he claimed that Trump had told him to invoke executive privilege. But only Trump could invoke that privilege, and Navarro offered no evidence that he had done so.

In their brief to the Supreme Court, Navarro’s lawyers pleaded the unprecedented nature of his plight as the first presidential adviser convicted of contempt of Congress after asserting executive privilege.

This has become a knee-jerk plea from Trump and his allies in cases relating to Jan. 6 — never before in the nation’s history, etc. The obvious (and correct) rejoinder is: Yes, that is true. Never before in the nation’s history had a sitting president incited a violent insurrection to overthrow the government because he was mad about losing the election. It turns out there’s a first time for everything.

An earlier version of this article misstated when Peter Navarro was convicted of criminal contempt of Congress. It was in September, not January.

How we handle corrections

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman

‘Dune: Part Two’ Is Deeply Subversive

Given my delight over “Dune: Part One,” it may seem strange that I didn’t rush out to see “Part Two” as soon as it opened. But life got in the way, so I managed to see it only last weekend. It was, of course, terrific, and I expected no less. Between “Dune” and “Oppenheimer,” we’ve learned that you can, in fact, make three-hour epics that don’t feel overlong and that don’t have you saying to yourself, “Oh no, not more bombastic C.G.I.”

But “Part Two” also startled me in ways somewhat different from “Part One.” Some spoilers ahead, so stop here if you haven’t seen the movie.

What was so great about “Part One” was that the director, Denis Villeneuve, actually got the essence of Frank Herbert’s complex, subtle, culturally syncretic vision, with its mélange of Islamic, ayurvedic and medieval elements. (By the way, “mélange” is an alternative name for the spice of Arrakis.) And he respected audiences enough to leave that vision intact. He simplified the novel in some ways, but in every case I can think of, the simplification improved the narrative flow, while the characters became deeper.

The same is true for “Part Two.” But this time Villeneuve not only got the essence of Herbert’s vision; he arguably got it better than Herbert himself.

On the surface, “Dune” traces out the classic hero’s journey — or in this case, the journey of the hero and his very deadly mother. But as I noted in my newsletter about “Part One,” there’s moral ambiguity at the heart of the novel: The hero knows that if he succeeds in his quest, war and mass slaughter will follow.

After watching the movies, I think that Herbert flinched in the face of that moral ambiguity but Villeneuve embraces the underlying darkness. The novel acknowledges that Paul Atreides starts a terrible war but more or less absolves him from responsibility — and ends with Lady Jessica reassuring Chani that she will remain Paul’s true wife, despite his imperial marriage of convenience. The movie ends with Chani leaving in disgust. And if I’m remembering it right, the last line in the movie is spoken by Jessica — who arguably becomes a monster, exploiting religious fervor for her own ends — who murmurs in satisfaction, “The holy war begins.”

So the “Dune” movies aren’t for people who want happy endings in which the good guys triumph; the ostensible good guys triumph but end up knowingly perpetrating horror. But if you can handle that, what a ride!

Mara Gay

A Chance to End the Party Machine’s Undemocratic Control in New Jersey

In New Jersey, candidates backed by political parties get a more prominent spot on the ballot. This has been going on for years as a vestige of party machine power, particularly among Democrats, and it’s an archaic, indefensible practice deliberately designed to mislead voters.

It really works, too. If the party likes you, then you get the line, a favored position on the left-hand side of the ballot, but if not, you’re off to the right in ballot Siberia, as it’s known, where many voters may never see your name. One study by Rutgers University found that being granted the line gives congressional candidates a 38-point advantage. Though party machines dominate other states, too, this particular method of control is unique to New Jersey. One expert described it as that “special New Jersey sauce .”

Tammy Murphy, a Democrat who is married to Gov. Philip Murphy, is running for the Senate seat now occupied by Robert Menendez and won the line in many counties because many of the county political bosses owe their allegiance to the governor. Last month, one of her strongest opponents in the June 4 Democratic primary, Representative Andy Kim, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the ballot system.

Kim noted that under the system, favored candidates like Murphy would appear in the same column as the most prominent Democrats, including President Biden, giving them an advantage.

Kim’s lawsuit says the practice is unconstitutional and violates the 14th Amendment. On Sunday he got some surprising and important support from the New Jersey attorney general, Matt Platkin, who agreed that the line is unconstitutional and said he would not defend it when Kim’s case comes to trial.

With any luck, U.S. District Court Judge Zahid Quraishi will agree, and the county line practice will be scrapped. Party machine politics leads to political dysfunction, erodes trust in government and frustrates voters. It’s among the last things American democracy needs.

Why Donald Trump Can’t Put Up a Bond

Any insurance company that underwrote a bond for Donald Trump in his civil fraud case in New York would undoubtedly be criticized by those who don’t like the ex-president. Chubb Insurance found that out when it underwrote a much smaller bond in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit against him. Chubb’s chief executive, Evan Greenberg, was forced to put out a letter saying, “We don’t take sides, it would be wrong for us to do so, and we are in no way supporting the defendant.”

But you don’t need to look to politics to understand why Trump’s lawyers said Monday that it was a “practical impossibility” to secure a bond allowing him to appeal the $454 million judgment against him. There’s a much simpler explanation: insurance regulation.

In an unregulated insurance market, Trump would have been able to come up with a surety bond with ease because his net worth far exceeds the size of the bond he needs. Some enterprising business would have asked him to put up some of his real estate holdings — say, $1 billion worth — as collateral. For good measure, it would have charged him a high premium on the bond.

But the state insurance departments that regulate surety bond companies don’t allow that kind of business. It would be highly risky for insurers to accept real estate as collateral because its value is unpredictable and it’s hard to sell on short notice. Regulators don’t allow insurance companies to charge high premiums for taking on that kind of risk; they want insurers to charge low premiums for low risk.

Typical premiums on surety bonds are just 0.5 percent to 3.0 percent, according to Neil Pedersen, the owner of Pedersen & Sons Surety Bond Agency, a New York-based broker.

Insurance regulators see such rates as high enough because they expect that the insurers will be fully protected from risk.

“You’re underwriting to an assumption of no loss,” said Julie Alleyne, the general counsel and vice president of policy at the Surety and Fidelity Association of America, a trade group. She had no comment on the Trump case.

Interest on the judgment is accumulating daily. For Trump to have gotten the bond he needs to appeal, he would have needed to post about $1 billion in cash and liquid securities, more than twice the size of the judgment.

Nothing personal, Mr. Trump. It’s just business.

Nicholas Kristof

Nicholas Kristof

Marginal Military Gains Won’t Stop a Famine in Gaza

There’s much we don’t understand about Israel’s raid on Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital with tanks and bulldozers on Monday.

But the hospital assault raises further questions about Israel’s stated aim of eradicating Hamas in Gaza as a whole. After all, if Israeli forces — having already invaded the hospital four months ago — cannot keep Hamas from reconstituting in one of the most watched institutions in the area, how will it keep Hamas or some extremist successor from reconstituting somewhere else in Gaza?

Israeli forces may have achieved military gains in the latest attack on Al-Shifa: They said they killed 20 militants, including one senior official. On the other hand, an unknown number of Palestinians were also reported killed, some possibly suffocating from smoke. Medical services were further disrupted in an area where children are already dying of malnutrition.

Reports from Gaza say that Israel may plan to move people sheltering at the hospital to a “safe zone,” the Al-Mawasi area, but that seems not to have happened before the raid. If Israel cannot manage to evacuate the 30,000 people in and around the hospital and get them housed and fed, how does it propose to move, house and feed some 1.4 million people sheltering in the city of Rafah, which Israel also plans to invade so that it can defeat Hamas militants there?

The news of the Israeli assault on Al-Shifa Hospital coincided with a report from an international authority that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza. This is enormously important: This authority has not declared a famine anywhere in the world since one in South Sudan in 2017.

The assault on Al-Shifa Hospital underscores the challenges faced by the Israeli authorities when Hamas hides among civilians. Hamas deserves condemnation for that and for its failure to pursue a desperately needed cease-fire. But Israel, too, has a role and must decide which targets to attack, what humanitarian costs are acceptable and whether to focus on moving tanks or moving relief trucks.

The juxtaposition of an aggressive military move by Israel on a hospital and the lack of a more substantial effort to ease the movement of food trucks into northern Gaza suggests that Israeli leaders are more focused on marginal military gains than on easing starvation among civilians.

I hope President Biden will apply his considerable leverage on Israel so that its priority becomes averting famine.

Pamela Paul

Pamela Paul

How Can So Many Prominent Authors Turn Against Free Expression?

Irony remains a cherished and oft-used literary device, but it seems to elude certain authors when it comes to matters off the page.

Last week, a number of writers withdrew from participating in the PEN World Voices Festival , an annual gathering of international writers convened by the free-speech organization PEN America. Founded two decades ago by Salman Rushdie and others in response to Sept. 11 and growing xenophobia, the festival’s aim is “uniting writers and readers to celebrate creative expression and the freedom to write for all.”

In an open letter posted on the website LitHub, the writers declared, “In the context of Israel’s ongoing war on Gaza, we believe that PEN America has betrayed the organization’s professed commitment to peace and equality for all, and to freedom and security for writers everywhere.” Among the signatories were Naomi Klein, Michelle Alexander and Isabella Hammad.

The spectacle of writers refusing to entertain the work of other writers in the name of freedom never fails to dispirit, though at this point it no longer surprises. Also last week, the literary magazine Guernica retracted its publication of an essay by Joanna Chen, an Israeli author. As the novelist Phil Klay wrote in The Atlantic , “the incident at Guernica reveals the extent to which elite American literary outlets may now be beholden to the narrowest polemical and moralistic approaches to literature.”

These efforts followed an earlier open letter to PEN, also posted on LitHub, in which over 600 writers condemned what they characterized as the organization’s relative silence on the war in Gaza and issued some demands for what the organization should say.

Those urging nonpartisan organizations to favor certain speech over others should consider that the tables can always turn. In October, I criticized the decision by the Frankfurt Book Fair to cancel a celebration for the Palestinian author Adania Shibli because the fair “stands with complete solidarity on the side of Israel.” PEN America remains one of the few organizations dedicated to defending free speech from all corners.

“Wherever there has been censorship, the first people to suffer from it are underprivileged minorities,” Salman Rushdie said in an interview with The Guardian in 2021. “So if in the name of underprivileged minorities you wish to endorse a suppression of wrongthink, it’s a slippery slope.”

David French

David French

Justice Breyer Is Only Partly Right About Originalism

I strongly recommend reading my colleague Adam Liptak’s interview with the retired Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, which is full of interesting observations. Breyer’s discussion of originalism, in particular, caught my attention. He is no fan of the originalist or textualist approaches; in fact, his new book is called “Reading the Constitution: Why I Chose Pragmatism, Not Textualism.”

Breyer told Liptak that originalist judges aren’t necessarily qualified to be historians. Judges need to consider the practical consequences of their rulings, he said, and the way that society’s values evolve.

In my view, this summary gets one big thing right and one big thing wrong. He’s absolutely correct that some approaches to originalism inject judges far too deeply into historical analysis. For example, in New York State Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen , the court adopted a “text, history and tradition” model for interpreting the Second Amendment that is proving to be a mess.

What is the line between history and tradition? And if the history or tradition is deeply confused (as much of American history is), then can’t the judge simply find the particular strand of history or tradition he or she prefers and then import personal preferences into what is supposed to be an objective analysis of meaning?

Indeed, as Liptak recently reported , one of the nation’s most influential conservative circuit court judges, Kevin Newsom, a Donald Trump appointee to the 11th Circuit, gave an important speech at Harvard Law School specifically questioning the reliance on tradition as part of originalist jurisprudence, arguing that by creating so much room for judicial preference, it can perform the same function for conservatives as living constitutionalism does for progressives.

I also agree with Breyer that American law can and should evolve as our values evolve. But it is the democratically elected branches of government that are responsible for that evolution, not the judiciary. The judiciary’s role is to interpret the law, not to change the law. Yes, it can and should overrule precedents when it believes they were wrongly decided, but not because society has evolved out of one legal standard into another.

Depending on judges to make invariably subjective determinations about cultural and political evolution alters the constitutional order, rendering judges ultimately supreme even in those arenas that the Constitution intends for other branches to control. Lawmaking is fundamentally a legislative obligation. It is not the role of the judiciary, the least democratic branch of the American government.

Julie Ho

Opinion Editorial Assistant

The Financial Aid Debacle Hurts Poor Students the Most

The Department of Education created an administrative hellscape last year when it rolled out the biggest overhaul to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in decades while restarting student loan repayment.

The redesign of the system, known as FAFSA, was ordered by Congress three years ago. The goal was to update the application and the underlying formula that targets aid to the students who need it. Colleges use the application to determine how much aid to offer.

The old version, which I filled out with the help of a librarian during my college years, was more complicated than applying for virtually any other form of federal assistance. The changes were well intentioned, but the execution was disastrous. Thanks to technical glitches, millions of students are still waiting for their applications to be submitted. At the current pace of debugging, the traditional May 1 college decision day is not within reach.

Karen McCarthy, vice president of public policy at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators, told me the overhaul requires balancing two conflicting forces: an application that’s easy to use, yet provides an accurate picture of family income and wealth.

Some students can’t afford to wait — generally the low-income, first-generation students this very revamp intended to help. Without an aid offer, they may be unable to attend college this year and instead have to work a full-time job or enroll in community college.

But even if those issues are cleared up during the school year, a bigger question will remain: Just whom is FAFSA supposed to help?

As Tressie McMillan Cottom has written in The Times, the answer is no longer as clear as it was when President Lyndon Johnson established the financial aid system in 1965 as an anti-poverty measure. Its purpose was to help poor students afford a measure of social mobility. As the price of tuition rose, including for the middle class, more families were encouraged to file FAFSA applications, but that has reduced the grant money available to low-income families.

FAFSA is the portal to assistance like the Pell grant , which made college affordable for generations of poorer families. Yet while the grant once covered 79 percent of the cost of four-year public tuition, a maximum award of about $7,000 would only cover 32 percent today.

Between the latest fumble and the bureaucratic nature of requesting aid, low-income families are also burdened by a system that contorts itself to serve everyone.

Trump Just Made the 2024 Choice as Vivid as Possible

Every Monday morning on The Point, we kick off the week with a tipsheet on the latest in the presidential campaign. Here’s what we’re looking at this week:

Listening to Donald Trump’s speech in Ohio Saturday night, where he demonized migrants and described some of them as “not people” and “animals,” I imagined this: It’s November 2024, and the presidential campaign boils down to a tale of two speeches from this month — Trump’s “not people” speech and President Biden’s State of the Union speech. Those speeches pretty much sum up each man. I’ve covered five presidential elections, and never has the choice between candidates been this vivid, this clearly, this early.

The big things to watch this week are whether Biden has picked up any support among voters post-State of the Union in the coming batch of public opinion polls and surveys, and whether Trump shows any signs of weakness — not just in those polls, but in the Ohio Senate primary on Tuesday, where his preferred Republican candidate is in a tough three-way battle for the nomination.

If Biden can improve his poll numbers — and especially, if he can increase his low job approval rating and get it consistently into the 40s — it could start shifting the political narrative about Trump dominance that has been pretty solid since last November. But it’s not clear whether swing voters heard enough new material at the State of the Union to change their thinking.

Several recent national and battleground state polls have shown Trump not only ahead of Biden in a two-way race, but also getting his percentage of the general election vote into the high 40s , which he struggled to do in 2020. That is significant.

One Democratic pollster told me he’s curious about two things in a poll he’s conducting this week: a Biden bump and whether Israel really matters to more than a tiny fraction of the electorate. Is Biden seen as weak or as a peacemaker? Is Trump seen as over-the-top or a strong leader?

If the polls remain unchanged after what was largely considered a successful State of the Union for Biden, that’s a bad sign about his standing in the race, since a part of Biden’s trouble has been with his base Democratic voters.

As for Trump, a lot of his base loves his rhetoric — ”not people,” “animals,” “ blood bath ” — seeing it as necessary in their good-vs.-evil worldview. But it’s worth keeping an eye on Ohio’s primary Tuesday night and how his endorsed Senate candidate, Bernie Moreno , fares. We might see a replay of Georgia 2020 Senate races again, where Trump’s speeches did more harm than good for Republican candidates.


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  24. Conversations and insights about the moment.

    Nope, it wasn't a BBL. She's not dead or in a coma or bulimic or using a body double. She's not getting a divorce. It's not that Charles is dead or that Ozempic is involved. Catherine ...