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Standard Words Per Page Essay

How to Make an Essay Look Longer

It’s somewhat difficult to make demands on essays for students – demanding that they have 500 words, for example, leads to really, really, very, extremely superfluous lists of adjectives and describing words like this sentence to up the word count. Other teachers use the page count as a metric of completion. But what happens when you have 4 and a half pages done of your five page essay? There are plenty of writing techniques to flesh ideas out and make it longer, but I’m assuming that your essay is perfect as it is and you want a more technological answer. Here are a few techniques that have served me well. I use them all the time.

Note: This tutorial is for Microsoft Word as a part of Office 2007, although many of the same techniques can be used in previous or subsequent versions of Word.

Font Choice and Font Size

First, font or font size is a fairly easy way to make an essay longer. Some teachers demand that Times New Roman size 12 be used. However, when they forget to add that to the rules, you can change it to whatever you want (assuming there’s no blanket statement about it on the syllabus). You want to choose a font that maximizes height. Obviously you don’t want to choose a font that’s too difficult to read, as it may annoy the person grading it. Below is a picture of the word “Hello” printed four times, each at size 12. The fonts, from left to right, are “Angsana New”, “Calibri”, “Times New Roman”, and “Algerian”.

Font size can also make a big impact on your paper. Going with a size 72 font will undoubtedly make your paper surpass the required page count, but isn’t the best idea. Just changing the font size from 12 to 13 can add a few lines to your paper. Below is a picture of identical text in two columns, both in Times New Roman, but size 12 on the left and size 13 on the right.

Even if your teacher demands size 12 Times New Roman, you might be tempted to change it anyway. Slight changes are fairly hard to measure in a printout, however, it is possible. For instance, if a teacher were to print out the word “the” in Times New Roman size 12 on a piece of transparency paper, they could then hold it over a word “the” in your essay and confirm whether or not it’s identical. Probably not going to happen, but it actually has happened to me before.

Space Between lines

The spacing between lines is very difficult to measure because although in most fonts the top and bottom edges vary significantly. In some fonts, there is a common edge except for letters that hang above or below the line, but in fonts that are meant to look more like handwriting, there is not. In any case, even with common edges, it’s not likely that your teacher will whip out a ruler and measure. Too large a gap may arouse suspicion, but changing an essay from double spaced to 2.1 spacing may actually make a large difference. The thing to remember is that the longer the base essay, the more they amplify the length. So for instance, if your essay is 10 lines with double spacing, and you change the spacing to 2.1, you get an extra 0.1 of a line for every line you’ve written, and 0.1×10 = 1. So, for every ten lines you actually write, you get the effect of having written eleven instead. For an essay that’s 4.5 pages, this tiny change can easily bring you over the 5 page mark and is virtually undetectable. Below is two paragraphs, the left with single spacing and the right is 1.1 spacing. This really demonstrates the potential of the small change.

To change the spacing between lines, you’ll need to access the “Paragraph” menu (I believe that in older versions of Word this could be done by going to Format -> Paragraph). In Word 2007, it can be accessed by going to the “Page Layout” tab of the ribbon and clicking on the pop-out button of the Paragraph rectangle.

From there, under Line Spacing, choose “Multiple”, and under At, choose a number close to something normal, like 1.1 or 2.1. You can increase this difference at the risk of the teacher noticing.


Changing the margins of a page is another great way to change the length of your paper. By decreasing the amount of space the words can take up per page, you increase the number of pages required to fit your existing content. Changing the left margin is a bit risky since most papers are left-justified, meaning that the left edge will be relatively the same for all papers. The right margin, however, can be changed to your heart’s content, since the length of words, number of letters, and number of spaces greatly affect each line’s right edge. You can also increase the amount of space taken up by the header and footer of a document.

Lengthen Header Content

One final way you can make a paper appear longer is by adding more lines to the header of your document. If you make it too long, be sure to have it on only the first page and not every page, as this would be incredibly obvious.

Other Notes

If your teacher demands that an essay be 5 pages long and no longer, but your paper is slightly longer, you can use these same techniques in reverse to make your paper look shorter. For instance, you can change double spacing to 1.9 spacing, or increase the margins.

One of the vexing questions many authors face is how long their book should be. They know they have to produce more words than a college essay, but exactly how long is a book? Many authors will, of course, scout out the books they consider their competitors, and then try to imitate their page counts. However, even doing this, they may still be confused about how to translate the
page count in their Microsoft Word document into printed book pages. If they typed 300 double spaced pages, is that enough to match their competition? Is 120 MS Word pages too short?

Here are some useful guidelines to help you assess how long your book should be. These are not hard and fast rules, but you will find they probably go a long way to clarify your questions.

Step 1 is to begin by asking yourself what vision you have for your book? What image appears in your mind when you see yourself as an author? This is because the physical appearance of your book—its design and trim size—impacts your word count. What most authors don’t realize is that your design and trim size play key roles in determining your ideal book length, so you need to decide what look and feel your book will have. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you want a small, intimate book? If you are writing personal reflection, spiritual or life coaching, or perennial wisdom, and you want your readers to have a very personal, intimate reading experience with you, the most appropriate trim size is 5” X 8”. This means that you cannot fit many words on a printed page and keep it readable. You don’t want to overwrite and be forced to use a teeny font. This trim size is good for only 200 to 250 words per printed book page. This translates into just 20,000 to 25,000 words for a 100 page book, 30,000 to 42,500 words for a 150-page book, perhaps just 40,000 words for a 200-page book.

A good example is the wonderful little personal/spiritual guide, The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz, which averages about 10 words per line X 20 lines per page = 200 words per page. This book has 144 pages, so it contains about 28,800 words. This type of book should not go more than 200 pages, so 40,000 words is probably your max. This is a fairly short book, but it packs a spiritual punch—and the 5” X 8” trim size is perfect to read this book sitting on the beach or on park bench.

  • Do you want to write a standard non-fiction book? This includes business, self-help, political science, history, science, psychology, and so on. If so, the common trim size for these books is 6” X 9”. This format generally averages about 300 words per page, thus about 30,000 words per 100 pages. So let’s say you want your book to match your competitors at 240 pages; you’d therefore aim for about 70,000 words. Indeed, most traditional publishers limit non-fiction authors to 80,000 words for standard 6” X 9” books, between 240 and 280 pages. This is about the length readers want for general non-fiction, and it keeps publishers happy given the high cost of paper.

 A good example of this is The Click Moment, by Frans Johansson, an excellent book on the influence of randomness in determining success. Each page contains about 34 lines, with an average word count of 11 words per line, thus 375 words per page. Excluding endnotes and index, the book has about 200 pages of text, which means its total word count is about 74,000 words.

  • Do you want to publish a wide format book—with inspiring quotes down the side margins? If so, these books need to be the 7” X 9” trim size, and the slightly larger pages can hold 400 to 450 words per page. Thus, 100 pages = 40,000 to 45,000 words and 200 pages yields 80,000 to 90,000 words for the main body of the text (this excludes the words used in the quotations down the sides of the book’s margins).

 The bestselling creativity guide which I edited, The Artist’s Way, is one of the shining examples of this wide format book. It contains 38 lines per page, with an average of 12 words per line, thus 456 words per book page. The total page count (excluding Appendices and Index) is 204 pages, thus about 93,000 words.

Once you have a vision for your book—small, standard, or wide format—you can move on to the second step in deciding how many words you should write.

Step 2 is to compare your book vision to your content and be sure they are compatible. If you are writing a self-help book containing 10 steps to life improvement (and each step = 1 chapter), and you think you manuscript is going to be 10 to 15 pages per chapter, but you want to create an intimate reading experience, your book might be way too long for the 5” X 8” trim size. You either need to scale back your content with shorter chapters or making your concept include only 7 steps to a better life, or you need to change your trim size. Perhaps the wide format is good for you, allowing you to go up to 80,000 or 90,000 words.

Step 3 is to ask yourself how much do you really have to say? For many new authors, your goal may be to publish your book to use a “calling card” to boost your marketplace credibility and enhance your reputation as a thought leader, executive, coach, or entrepreneur. Perhaps you don’t have enough content to create the standard non-fiction book at 80,000 words. If so, you might give yourself a goal of writing a 96- to 128-page book in the 6” X 9” format, thus only about 30,000 to 40,000 words. This is still respectable, if your content feels new and your writing is impressive.

Step 4 is measure your manuscript in word count, not pages. As you can see, you need to know your word count, not the number of pages your word processor produces. If I were to ask you how long your book is, and you answer that it is 225 manuscript pages, I am still not clear. I don’t know what type font you used, nor if you used single, 1.5, or double spacing. Use your word processor to figure out your average word count per manuscript page and your total word count.

Step 5 is to target your writing so you will be on track for your book’s vision. If you can decide on the right vision for your book, and you therefore know your trim size, you can tailor your writing to your target. If you know you need to write 40,000 words and your content calls for 10 chapters, then you should be aiming for 4,000 words per chapter. Don’t overwrite. I’ve had authors send me 25 page chapters containing 12,000 words, making it clear that their 10 chapter book is going to end up at 120,000 words—way too long for most publishing houses and even for self-publishing. But I’ve also had authors send me 8 pages with just 2400 words, without realizing that, at this rate, their 7 chapters will amount to less than 20,000 words. If they want a 6 X 9 book, this is only about 66 pages—almost not a book.

I hope this information has helped you gain clarity about your book. If you have any questions about how long your book should be, feel free to contact me and we can figure out your book vision and word count together. Meanwhile, stay tuned for my next blog, “What’s the Difference between a Foreword, a Preface, a Prologue, and an Introduction—and Which One Do I Want?”

Post Tagged with Book Length, ebooks, self-publishing, Writing Coach

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