Student typing on a laptop.

April 29, 2024, by Laura Nicholson

Assignment writing: Word counts and effective strategies to meet them

Many students will be busy finishing their dissertations and assignments as the spring semester goes on, which frequently raises concerns about word counts. In this post, we look at the purpose of word counts and how they can work in your favour instead of against you.

Word counts: urge writers to be explicit about what they are attempting to say, which guarantees that the message is clear and succinct.

Writing advice: the word count gives you a general idea of how much detail is needed in a certain piece of writing. They can guarantee that the desired degree of detail is reached or that extraneous detail is avoided.

Standardisation: to maintain fairness and consistency, expectations for various assignments are standardised.

Although word counts ensure students can delve deep enough into the topic they are being assessed on, they can also cause worry and sometimes promote the idea of quantity over quality.


Some tips to keep in mind when managing word counts

Starting point: make sure you understand the depth, breadth, and complexity of the task by carefully going through the requirements.

Plan: create a list of the main ideas and give each part a rough word count.

Review: Go over the initial draft and cross out any words or phrases that are not needed. Highlight any passages that seem to be straying from the subject.

Repetition: check for repetitive phrases and words that could be eliminated.

Refer to the word count: monitor the word count as you write and make adjustments. If you are going well over what you set yourself for a section, stop writing and review. This will save you time in the long run and prevent you from having to delete content later on when you are trying to meet the word count.

Other practical strategies could include using grammar-checking support via Grammarly or similar.

People who can help

The best place to find someone to discuss your studies with is usually your school. Start by contacting your personal tutor, an academic tutor, or the module lecturer. Alternatively, you can find other useful contacts on the University of Nottingham studying efffectively webpage.

Further guidance

For support with uploading your assignment to Moodle or Turnitin, please have a look at our previous blog post, ‘Students: How to Upload Turnitin and Moodle Assignments’, which also contains a helpful video demonstration.

Posted in Assessment