How many words should an essay have?

Normally essays are a short form of academic work as compared to research papers or dissertations. A usual length of an essay falls between 500-1000 words, however, there are many conditions that affect this parameter. 

Often the exact length is defined in rules or guidelines of whoever is tasking you with writing an essay. Ask your teacher, tutor, or otherwise check with your written college instructions on writing an essay. As a student, you may be asked to write an essay up to 5000-6000 words long totaling to 3-5 pages.

Admissions essays are often much shorter in length than the general academic essays. They may be as short as 300-400 words long. This is because the admissions board or a committee has to go through a lot of essays a day and they will simply get overwhelmed with reading and evaluating long essays.

If not defined by particular guidelines, the length of an essay could vary based on your subject, your level of education, the complexity of an idea you want to convey, or the impact you want to make on your target audience. As a general rule your essay should consist of the three main parts, each varying in size:

  • Introduction. Typically it is the shortest part of your essay, however, it is no less important than the other parts. Make sure to capture your reader’s attention right from the start by making your introduction bright and memorable. Allow not more than one or two paragraphs for this part. 
  • Body. Typically it is the longest part that includes the essay statement, conveys the main ideas and this is where you make your arguments. It should contain at least half of all the words that you used in the essay.
  • Conclusions. This is where you summarize, recap, and digest things. You do not need to summarize every single argument from your essay, but be sure to prioritize and make a very strong conclusion. Usually, the length is no more than one paragraph.  

Each of these parts may represent a separate paragraph, totaling to three paragraphs, however, a general recommendation would be to make at least 5 paragraphs in your essay.

It is worth to come up with an outline of the essay before you start writing it down. It would allow you to include all the essential points to be covered such as the introduction, thesis statement, main body, and conclusion. This approach should help you to ensure that every critical element of the essay is in its place and your essay is easy to read and to grasp its main idea.

Often students struggle with essay writing because they simply aim to meet the word count requirement. Such an approach is counterproductive as essay writing is a creative work in the first place. It is an opportunity to express yourself, to make a difference and get noticed, to stand out from the crowd, and to connect with your target audience. Think of it as a piece of art that comes from your heart and we promise that no reader would even pay attention if you used slightly more or slightly less words than required.

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