When you’re writing a school paper after researching and typing for what feels like ages, but you still haven’t reached your teacher’s required page count, it’s normal to feel frustrated. Maybe you get a little creative and play Microsoft Word gymnastics with different fonts and spacing, or become super expressive with your descriptions. There’s also a chance you missed something on the assignment rubric, or overlooked the opportunity to include more quotes from trusted sources. You might even be able to load up on a few more examples for your argument, easily boosting the word count with additional research. Still a couple pages behind the limit? Don’t worry. Below, we have over 20 tips to help you hit that page requirement.
1. Make sure you included everything on the rubric.
If you forgot a whole section focusing on the counter argument, that could be the reason why your paper is a couple pages shorter than needed.
2. Load up on transitional phrases.
Your paper isn’t long enough, therefore it may be necessary to add some transitional phrases because they take up space. On the other hand, this could make your paper really wordy, however, it may be necessary. See what I did there?
3. Spell out your numbers.
There are four editorial styles — AP, APA, MLA, and Chicago. Each one has a different rule for spelling out numbers, which can work out in your favor. For instance, in APA, you write out all numbers under 10. So a one-character “7” becomes a five-character “seven.” In MLA, you spell out all numbers at the beginning of a sentence, and all simple numbers (those that are one or two words). Make sure to check the assignment rubric to see what style your paper should be written in!
4. Ditch the contractions.
Honestly, you probably should not even be using contractions in a formal essay, so if you are filling up your paper with “don’t,” “won’t,” and “can’t,” switch them out for “do not,” “will not,” and “cannot.”
5. Use numerous examples.
Make sure to do extensive research on your essay topic and come up with at least 2-3 examples for every argument presented. One example might seem like enough, but adding a couple more points improves your paper and boosts its word count.
6. Add quotes.
Including quotes, whether they be from a book, news article, or trusted source, helps strengthen and validate the point you’re making in a paper. But you can’t just drop a quotation without context. Introducing, writing out, and properly unpacking a quote can add value — and length — to your essay.
7. Start getting really descriptive about everything.
How illustrative can you get about the evolution of electricity, you ask? Well, the answer is: Very. The howling wind gushed passed Benjamin Franklin at 30 miles per hour on that cold, rainy night, pulling the string of his kite taught as it fought to stay in the sky and sent his grey hair flying up in the sky like silvery wisps.
8. Try to make your header longer.
If possible, of course. Some teachers clearly state what information needs to be included in the header. But if there’s no guideline, add what you can within reason — I’m not sure your teacher is going to appreciate your TikTok or Insta handle listed on the page.
9. Have someone proofread.
Getting another pair of eyes to read your paper might reveal some areas in need of work. Maybe you need to elaborate a bit more on a certain argument, or include a quote to strengthen an example.
10. Revisit your introduction paragraph.
Sometimes, an introduction is easiest to write after the paper has been written. Having already presented and thoroughly discussed the argument in the essay’s body paragraphs, you have a more concrete understanding of what direction the paper takes. There might be some information or ideas you can add into the intro, to better set up the paper’s points.
11. Make your spacing larger.
Your teacher probably won’t be able to tell the difference between double spacing and 2.5 spacing. *fingers crossed*
12. While you’re at it, expand the spacing between the characters.
Yes, I’m talking between each and every letter.
13. Raise the font size from 12pt to 12.5pt.
Nobody has to know!
14. Make all periods and commas 14pt.
It sounds tedious, but simply command-f and search for the period, that way you can change all of them at once.
15. Put extra space around your (super long and bolded) title.
It needs some space to shine and breathe, obvs.
16. Change the font.
You can’t get too crazy or else your teacher will call you out, so you stick with something super similar to Times New Roman, but slightly bigger, like Bookman Old Style. However some teachers specify a certain font in the paper’s assignment requirements — in the case, don’t try to switch things up.
17. Reverse outline.
After you’ve finished penning your essay, read it through and write an outline on what you have written so far. This strategy can reveal some paragraphs in need of further development. If you notice one super long paragraph, try breaking the ideas down into separate paragraphs. This might bump the page count up a bit, and give you the opportunity to include a few more transition sentences.
18. Make your margins bigger.
You have to be careful about the left and right margins, and the top can be tricky. But the bottom margin, you can practically make it as big as you want. And then you can…
19. Add a fancy footer with page numbers.
Obviously (hopefully), your teacher will appreciate your attention to detail and presentation.
20. Add a header with the title of your paper to every single page.
Just in case your teacher forgets what your paper is about. You only want to help.
21. Make a separate cover page.
Technically, the rubric didn’t say it couldn’t count as page one.