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Wednesday, September 23, 2015


How I Tackle Overwhelming Word Counts

Do you ever feel like Charlie Brown?
I remember what it felt like to be assigned a 1,000 word (or more) essay in school and basically want to bash my head in. But it's gotten a lot easier over time.
For me, it depends on the topic. If something is really interesting to me, or of I have a lot of information on it, of course I can write 500 words super quickly.
But other times, like when I have to do a business profile on a nursing home or a dentist, it gets a little difficult. (I mean, should I start discussing the variety of foods they serve the old folks, or the type of mints they offer in the waiting room at the dentist's office?) Word counts can seem overwhelming. 

So here’s a few methods I use to tackle them:

1.       Turn “and” into “as well as.” Two extra words with no effort, and it makes you sound smarter.
2.       Just add flowery, unnecessary information. (I hate writing things that aren’t necessary or relevant, but if I’m in a pinch, why not. Plus, it can clear things up.) For instance, I might say:
Charlie flung the stick several feet away. His faithful playmate bounded after it.
But then I could add the (unnecessary) information.
Charlie flung the stick several feet away to a spot near the tree. Fido looked eagerly up at his friend, grateful for a willing playmate. He immediately bounded after it.
Seventeen added words. Sometimes this can also make it sound more personable and detailed, if you like that approach.
3.       Repetitive phrases. In some situations, they can work for good. Learn all about that here.
4.       Make sure you’re covering all sides. Remember in fifth grade English when they told you to write the who, what, when, where, why and how (five w’s and an h)? Well that really is a legitimate piece of advice.
5.       Add prepositional phrases and adjectives.
Charlie flung the stick several feet away.
Charlie flung the stick several feet away to a spot near the old oak tree.
Eight added words.
6.       Add verb phrases.
Charlie flung the stick several feet away.
Charlie grabbed a stick and flung it several feet away to a spot near the old oak tree.
Eleven added words.
7.       Turn all contractions into separate words. It might sound odd, but if you are desperate it will be helpful if you are not up to the word count yet.
8.       Split sentences in two.
She was intelligent and beautiful.
She was intelligent. She was also very beautiful.
Three added words. Plus an added sentence. Some teachers are really specific about how many sentences should be in a paragraph. So if you need more sentences, this work out.
9.       Appositives.
Mr. Smith was the finest businessmen around.
Mr. Smith, who lived on Main Street, was one of the finest businessmen around.
Also notice the added “one of the.” Seven extra words.

10. Add long quotes (from sources or people you're writing on). This is super easy because you don't even have to come up with anything yourself, it's all on your sources.

There are a bunch of other ways to add words too, but it basically comes down to adding more information and more description. And then the little additions (like “as well as” instead of “and” and “do not” instead of “don’t”) work if you only need a few extra words.

Unless of course you just had a really boring summer like Charlie and all you really did was play ball and go to camp. Then it might be difficult to elaborate. But you could probably do it.

Sometime soon, I'll be writing a post on How I Condense (when I'm having the opposite problem and need less words), so be sure to check back, subscribe or follow! 
Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go write a 1,200 word business profile on... a local pharmacy. Yeah, I really just wrote this for myself.


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