Essays can vary in length. Always check and follow the word limit given for each assignment.
Longer essays could be around 3,000 words, and shorter essays 500 to 750 words.
The main feature of a shorter essay is that the main body will be shorter. There will be fewer paragraphs available to fully discuss, analyse, and make arguments that support the thesis statement. Introductions and conclusions will also need to be shorter.
For example, in a 750-word essay, you could have an introduction of around 40 words (or 5% of the total word count), three main body paragraphs where each paragraph is 220 to 225 words, and a conclusion of around 40 words.
Please note: Some instructions for short essays might ask you to submit an essay without an introduction or a conclusion. You would then use the word count for the main body discussion only.
Tips for writing shorter essays:
For example, a short essay structure could be:
First body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement about advantages
Second body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement about disadvantages
Third body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement comparing advantages and disadvantages
First body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement about one side of the argument
Second body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement about the other side of the argument
Third body paragraph: Begins with a point or statement comparing both sides of the argument
You can condense writing into fewer points by combining points which have a common focus.
“One advantage of spending time in the workforce before starting university is having the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills with a range of people.”
“Another benefit of workforce experience is the chance to develop skills in meeting competing deadlines.”
“The advantage of spending time in the workforce before starting university is being able to gain experience in managing the demands of different people and different tasks.”
When discussing the point in the main part of a paragraph, synthesising is a useful technique. Synthesising means combining material from several sources in the same sentence, according to how these sources contribute to the discussion. Sources might have something in common or give contrasting perspectives on the same topic. Synthesising shows you have understood and analysed your sources and is another way to condense your writing.
“Based on the ideas of Johnson (1997), McDonald (2000), and Wright (2002), it can be argued that…”
“While Johnson (1997) found that…, McDonald (2000) and Wright (2002) demonstrated that… “
Instead, you could begin by drafting a longer essay which captures all the material you would like to include. It might be easier to see which parts should go into a shorter version, and what you can leave out.
These tips can be used for essays of any length, or for parts of longer essays.
Shorter essays vs. shorter or single paragraph responses
A shorter response or single paragraph answer uses one paragraph to discuss a topic or point, or to answer a question. It follows a PIE (Point, Illustration, Explanation) paragraph structure.
Single paragraph responses demonstrate how techniques such as condensing and signposts can work.
In a single paragraph response, the point does the dual job of setting the context and setting the focus of the discussion that follows. In this example short answer paragraph, the “two main implications” is the focus, and the description of the Fees-Free tertiary policy is the context. This is an example of condensing the writing into a single-point sentence. In a longer essay, you would have more space to explain the context and background of the policy in more detail, in a full introduction or in another main body paragraph.
The example paragraph also uses the signposts “Firstly…” and “Furthermore…” to follow through on the “two main implications” stated in the point, and to provide transitions through the discussion.
You could use a single paragraph response format for each main body paragraph in a shorter essay. Choose the point to discuss in each paragraph, and ensure the points create a forward transition through the main body, and that together, the points help to argue and answer the thesis statement.