Updated: Sep 12
Last week’s Professional Writing tip, “7 Tips to Cut Down Your Word Count,” explored exactly as advertised. It’s a great topic to cover for so many professional situations.
Then again, so is the exact opposite one.
For my part, I think of adding to word count as more of a college student kind of thing. But I do realize that not everyone is as naturally wordy as I am. And there are plenty of professional situations where you might need to meet a longer copy length than a shorter one.
To paraphrase what I wrote last time… to some degree, it takes a practiced writer to know where words can best be added. “There are tricks of the trade that, unfortunately, would take way too much time and space for a single blog… not to mention a knowledge of grammatical terms that neither of us cares to know.”
So, as with the past post, “We’re just going to keep it nice and simple with a mere” six “tips to add to your word count. They’re straightforward enough that you can start using them just as soon as you finish this quick read.”
For the record, if you read the “cutting word count” article, some of the following is going to sound familiar. However, there’s more than enough unique content ahead that you might want to read it anyway.
Before we get to the actual list, one word of caution: Never add to your word count if it’s going to hurt your engagement, your understandability, or your effectiveness.
(And yes, this part is exactly the same as last week’s write-up.)
The latter two qualities are pretty self-explanatory. But let me explain “engagement” real quick. Unless you’re writing a manual or something else that’s supposed to be dry, your message should act as a magnet. You want it to be as attractive as possible in the sense that it’s not a chore to read.
Instead, it draws readers in and keeps their attention from start to finish.
In other words, never take any of following word-count adding suggestions unless they make your copy look better:
Add adverbs and adjectives, those words that describe verbs and nouns.
Switch out existing adverbs and adjectives with longer phrases.
Clarify your statements.
Turn summarizations of people’s opinions into quotes or add quotes to summarizations.
Acknowledge relevant opposing opinions.
When you do, you’ll find your word count boosted in as painless a fashion as possible.
Let’s say you have an 86-word copy you need to get up above 300. It’s a daunting difference, to say the least, particularly when your brain just isn’t working properly.
Here’s what you have originally:
High school students across the U.S. are forced to read The Scarlet Letter every year. But the striking novel might be too psychologically advanced for them to appreciate. As Noah Cho writes on Lit Hub, it simply doesn’t seem relevant to their age group.
Controversial though the concept might be, administrators and teachers might want to rethink that classic reading choice – if for no other reason than to not turn teenagers off from exploring literature at a later date when they can better grasp its worth.
By employing the six word-count adding tips above, you’ve got your problem solved easily:
Every year, high school students across the fruited plains are forced to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter. And every year, high school students across the fruited plains hate it.
Personally, I remember being one of them. I simply didn’t get the “big deal.” And, looking back, I’ve come to the conclusion that the striking novel might simply be too psychologically advanced for them to appreciate. As Noah Cho writes on Lit Hub, it simply doesn’t seem relevant to their age group:
“Like many people who grew up in the American school system, I first read Hawthorne’s novel as a high school sophomore. Our English teacher led us enthusiastically through the book as I struggled to stay awake. ‘You see,’ she said to our class, ‘Hawthorne keeps comparing little Pearl to a bird. It means that she, symbolically, wants to…’ [Dramatic pause.] ‘… Fly free!’ Looking back on that class, I often find it incredible that I became an English teacher.”
There are plenty of other people who would agree with that assessment, and for a range of reasons. There’s the foreign-sounding phrasing of sentences. (It wasn’t written in the 21st century, after all.) The foreign-sounding concepts being read in a culture that’s much more accepting of promiscuity. Plus, let’s face it, it’s not the most action-packed story ever written.
It can be said that exposing teenagers to opposing viewpoints and foreign-sounding cultures is a positive. And if that seems like a relevant point, it’s no doubt because it is. However, the same goal can no doubt be accomplished much more easily with other reading assignments: more age-appropriate ones.
Controversial though the concept may be, administrators and teachers might want to rethink this classic reading choice – if for no other reason than to not turn teenagers off from exploring literature at a later date when they can better grasp its worth.
Just like that, you’re up to 300 words! And those tips should apply to almost every topic under the sun… not just The Scarlet Letter.