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Counting Words

Having had almost a week off from essay writing my head is a little clearer and last night I managed to reduce my incomplete draft (three sections still to go!) to below the total word limit by pruning out almost a thousand words - that's not all that helpful because I'll undoubtedly write another 3000 plus before I'm done.

As I prune away, try to sharpen up sentences without them getting too terse and ponder whether this or that paragraph is really essential, I find myself wondering about the whole word limit thing.

Back in my undergrad days when we had a +/- 10% allowance on word limit, people fell in to two camps.  There were some who, with a 3k limit would say, right that means 2700 and others who would say that means 3300.  No guesses which camp I was in!  Even then it struck me that what could be said in 2700 words was an awful lot less than in 3300.  By the time it got to 6000 word level 3 essays, the difference was huge.  I guess there some people who, without a word limit, would write precious little and others who would never stop writing, and it's probably as difficult whichever one you are.  My mother tells the tale of an English exam which had the question 'would you rather be Titania or Puck?' to which one candidate simply wrote 'neither' and passed.  How times have changed.

I do understand why we need word limits, even if I dislike them passionately (had you noticed?!) and I know that with my tendency verbosity and non-essential detail they are a good thing, but I do wonder about the fact that I often spend as much time pruning as writing - especially when it gets to the point where I am only about 10 words over!  With no leeway on this piece (though I don't think I have to declare the word count) I predict a week of nightmarish editting prior to submission.

I wonder what the Bible might have been like with a word limit on each book?!


  • You have my sympathy...I too over wirte...BD dissertation was supposed to be 8-10,000 and first draft was 15,000. I got it down to 11,000 and then I was asked if thast included footnotes...NO, cos there was another 1,500 there! Its one of amny reasons why I resisit all encouragement to do a PhD..I aslo hate work 'disappearing' becuase of word limits!

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