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

  1. Identify irrelevant content
  2. Cut down on prepositions
  3. Eliminate the sentences that don’t add value
  4. Remove unnecessary modifiers and qualifiers
  5. Remove weaker paragraphs
  6. Eliminate redundant words and phrases
  7. 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.

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