I have written a rough draft, but I haven’t met the length requirement of the assignment.

It’s not unusual to finish a draft and be short of the length requirement.  Drafting helps us get our thoughts on the page, allowing us to see what we know and don’t know.  Writers often find gaps in their thinking after completing a draft.  That’s why they continue to write drafts until they’re satisfied with what they have on the page.  Consider some of the following advice if you find yourself needing to increase your word count.

FOR ARGUMENTATIVE/RESEARCH PAPERS

  • Read back over your assignment prompt to make sure you’ve fulfilled all requirements.
  • Look for places to expand and clarify your ideas.  We recommend that you have someone read your paper in order to see if he or she finds parts of the paper confusing or underdeveloped.
  • Revisit your sources to see if they contain some additional insight or information that could strengthen your argument.
  •  

  • Make sure you have taken time to properly introduce and discuss your sources.  Sometimes, for example, we quote sources without giving information about who or what we are quoting and without giving an explanation of what the quote means and how that quote fits into our argument.
  •  

  • Consider adding more evidence to further support your argument or details to help your reader see things more clearly through your eyes. (MAKING AN ARGUMENT)
  •  

  • Talk to your instructor.  Maybe you have already met the goals of the assignments.
  •  

FOR CREATIVE AND PERSONAL PIECES

  • If you’re writing a creative piece (non-fiction or fiction), you might take a look at the different elements of your story to see if you need to clarify or add more detail.  Is your setting vivid—can readers place the action of the story?  Are your characters’ personalities and actions understandable to readers?  Do your characters engage in meaningful dialogue?  Does your plot follow a logical order—does the plot hold together?
  •  

  • For personal narratives…Since your readers didn’t personally experience what you’re writing about, you need to make sure that you are detailed enough to help readers understand the idea or experience you are trying to convey. Your readers can only envision what you show them directly in your details. For that reason, you might consider some of the above advice regarding elements of a story as these elements are often important in personal narrative writing as well.
  •  

  • Also, when writing a personal narrative, you might consider whether you should include a detailed reflection about the significance of the experience you are sharing.  These reflections can be placed anywhere in the narrative, and they ultimately help you make sense of the experiences featured in your writing.
  •  

  • Personal statements for graduate programs, petitions, and scholarships may require a different approach in terms of expanding the word count.  While meeting the length requirement is not usually a challenge given how short personal statements typically are, you might consider adding more details and examples to support the claims you are making about yourself.  For example, if you tell the reader that you are a team player, give a detailed example that shows readers that you actually have that attribute.  Supporting the claims about yourself with actual evidence will not only lengthen your statement but it will also help you be more persuasive with your reader.
  •  

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Writing Center consultants can be effective readers in these situations, as they will raise questions that may lead you to expand on or add ideas to your text.  Also, our consultants can help you determine whether you have met the requirements for the assignment.

Additional Resources

The Writing Center can help you locate source material, but we also recommend that you make an appointment with a research librarian, who will teach you strategies and provide you with resources that will help you locate quality information on your topic. You can make a research appointment online:https://louisville.edu/library/forms-1/rap/