Maximum word limits are a pain in the butt. It’s kinda soul destroying to have to cut all the beautiful words you’ve just spent hours writing.

But they are there for a reason.

Word limits force you to write concisely so you can answer the question well without wasting words. I often felt like there was no way I could cut enough from my word count but, using my techniques below, I always managed to and the end result was a clearer, more powerful piece of writing.

In this blog post you’ll discover:

  • Why you should cut the fluff from your writing
  • Why you should try to reduce your word count
  • 7 simple techniques to improve your writing today


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

Your goal isn’t to write a literary masterpiece. You won’t get higher marks for knocking your tutor’s socks off with your elegant prose.

Instead – you need to get your ideas down on paper in the least amount of words possible. While your writing may seem less pleasant to read, your tutor will appreciate de-bloated writing…and you should gain higher marks.

Benefits of reducing your word count and improving the clarity of your writing:

  • Your ability to control your language will give the reader the impression you are intelligent and educated
  • Clear writing will help the reader understand your ideas and argument
  • Cutting the fluff will allow you to include more valuable points so you can score the highest mark possible

If you manage to cut 100 words from an essay by using these tips, that’s 100 extra words to answer the question. Those 100 spare words could be used to craft seven or eight kick ass sentences that could gain you the marks needed to push you to the next grade.

7 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Word Count

1. Get rid of redundant modifiers

The use of redundant modifiers has crept into our everyday language so they’re hard to spot. Marketing messages often include redundant modifiers to attempt to add effect, such as, ‘very unique’. If something is ‘unique’ it is one of a kind. Adding ‘very’ does nothing to the meaning, adds an extra word and just sounds silly if you think about it. The same applies to the examples, ‘added bonus’ or ‘absolutely certain’.

Look through your writing to see if you’ve included any redundant modifiers. After awhile you’ll get in the habit of not using them.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

Absolutely certain > certain

Added bonus > bonus

Basic essentials > essentials

Complete monopoly of the market > monopoly of the market

Crystal clear > clear

End result > result

Exact same > exact/same

Final outcome > outcome

Immediate vicinity > vicinity

Major breakthrough > breakthrough

Make plans in advance > make plans

New initiative > initiative

Natural instinct > instinct

Over exaggerate > exaggerate

Past experience > experience

Past memories > memories

Personal opinion > opinion

Postpone until later > postpone

Revert back > revert

Top priority > priority

True fact > fact

Very unique > unique

Weather conditions > weather

Written down > written

2. De-bloat your inflated phrases

Similarly, there are probably instances where you’re using two, three or four words where one would do. These can take a few edits to pick up but once removed your word count and clarity are improved pretty quickly.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

Are indications of > indicates

At all times > always

At the present time > at present/currently/now

Collaborate/join together > collaborate/join

Completely ruined > devastated

Concerning the matter of > about

Despite the fact that > although

Due to the fact that > because

During the course of > during

For the purpose of > for

Has a tendency to > tends

Has knowledge of > knows

Has the ability to > can

In a situation in which > when

In order to > to/so that

In the event that > if

It is necessary that > must/should

On the other hand > conversely

On two separate occasions > twice

The majority of > most

There is a chance that > may/might/could

Until such time as > until

What the organisation aims to do is > the organisation aims to

Whether or not > whether

Will provide a summary > will summarise

With regards to > about

3. Redundant categories

Some people have a tendency to state an attribute or characteristic and then, perhaps in an effort to be more accurate, state its category too. For example, ‘blue in colour’ should just be ‘blue’. ‘Small in size’ should just be ‘small’. Remove these in your writing and sound smarter.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

Attractive in appearance > attractive

Blue in colour > blue

Heavy in weight > heavy

Honest in character > honest

In a confused state > confused

Of a strange type > strange

Of cheap quality > cheap

Period in time > period

Small in size > small

Unusual in nature > unusual

4. Remove ‘that’

Some words take up precious word count but add nothing. The most common is ‘that’ which is fairly harmless but, over the course of an entire essay, could increase the word count. You won’t always be able to remove ‘that’ and maintain clarity, but search your document and see if removing them alters the meaning of the sentence.


Ensure that you make relevant use of both articles

This is the book that she wrote

The report that was approved by the board


I want to buy that car

5. Delete adverbs

Adverbs can weaken academic writing by detracting from what is being said. Using adverbs frequently will bloat your writing and can disrupt a reader’s flow. Don’t add a descriptive word to a verb, instead just use a descriptive verb. For example, ‘dropped rapidly’ can become ‘plummeted’.

Search your text for the word ‘very’ or adverbs ending in ‘ly’ and see if they can be replaced while maintaining clarity.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

Eat noisily > gulp

Drop rapidly > plummet

Look angrily > scowl

Run quickly > sprint

Say quietly > whisper

Very big > enormous

Very tired > exhausted

6. Eliminate redundant pairings

The English language is so rich we often have too many words to choose from. Rather than choosing one and sticking to it we tend to pile them on top of each other. A simple idea can quickly become a bloated sentence filled with pointless words.

Look out for some of the examples below and shorten them to reduce the word count but maintain clarity

(Also do this where you’ve created your own list of descriptive or explanatory words.)

First and foremost

Hope and trust

Each and every

So on and do forth

Over and done with

One and only

Few and far between

Peace and quiet

Hope and desire

Tidy and presentable

7. Remove ‘helping words’

This technique can take a little practice to implement but it can reduce your word count quickly. Sentences including words in the form of ‘be’ or ‘have’ can often be edited and rearranged to reduce word count and add clarity. Check your writing for these sentences.

Here's some examples you can edit to reduce your word count

First, one has to analyse the situation > first, analyse the situation

The report was prepared by Psychology students > Psychology students prepared the report

This report has been prepared to analyse… > this report analyses/aims to analyse…

His duties were classified in the report > the report classified his duties.


How to Actually START Your Essay

Workbook + video training to take you from procrastination and overwhelm to understanding your question and mapping out your ideas with momentum. Easier, faster essay writing (and higher grades) await.

Start Your Essay

You may also like...

In this episode, I am kicking off a six-part series on essay writing with a deep dive into the five essential requirements of a first class essay. I’ll break down the core elements that make an essay stand out, from constructing a logical argument to staying within the word count. Then, I’ll share the common

The 5 Simple Requirements of Every First Class Essay

In this episode, I dive into the transformative concept of productive struggle and how it can be a secret weapon for your academic success. I’ll demystify what productive struggle actually is, highlighting the difference between productive and unproductive struggle. Then, I’ll share 7 simple, practical strategies to help you navigate and embrace productive struggle, so

Productive Struggle: How to Embrace This Secret to Academic Success

In this episode, you’ll learn the do’s and don’ts of academic writing to help you write a great essay. We’ll start by highlighting seven common mistakes that lead to subpar essays – or what I refer to as shite essays. Because learning what NOT to do can really help you get clear on what you

7 Ways to Write a Sh*te Essay (And How to Write a Great Essay Instead)


How to Build Unshakeable Studying Confidence in Just 5 Days

Learn 5 powerful strategies to build an unshakeable foundation of studying confidence.

Say goodbye to self-doubt and traumatic school memories getting in the way of you acing your learning as an adult.

And instead say hello to studying with more motivation, positivity and ease so that you can graduate with the grades you want.

Unshakeable Studying Confidence_mockup