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College Essays

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Figuring out your college essay can be one of the most difficult parts of applying to college. Even once you've read the prompt and picked a topic, you might wonder: if you write too much or too little, will you blow your chance of admission? How long should a college essay be?

Whether you're a terse writer or a loquacious one, we can advise you on college essay length. In this guide, we'll cover what the standard college essay length is, how much word limits matter, and what to do if you aren't sure how long a specific essay should be.

How Long Is a College Essay? First, Check the Word Limit

You might be used to turning in your writing assignments on a page-limit basis (for example, a 10-page paper). While some colleges provide page limits for their college essays, most use a word limit instead. This makes sure there's a standard length for all the essays that a college receives, regardless of formatting or font.

In the simplest terms, your college essay should be pretty close to, but not exceeding, the word limit in length. Think within 50 words as the lower bound, with the word limit as the upper bound. So for a 500-word limit essay, try to get somewhere between 450-500 words. If they give you a range, stay within that range.

College essay prompts usually provide the word limit right in the prompt or in the instructions.

For example, the University of Illinois says :

"You'll answer two to three prompts as part of your application. The questions you'll answer will depend on whether you're applying to a major or to our undeclared program , and if you've selected a second choice . Each response should be approximately 150 words."

As exemplified by the University of Illinois, the shortest word limits for college essays are usually around 150 words (less than half a single-spaced page). Rarely will you see a word limit higher than around 650 words (over one single-spaced page). College essays are usually pretty short: between 150 and 650 words. Admissions officers have to read a lot of them, after all!

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Weigh your words carefully, because they are limited!

How Flexible Is the Word Limit?

But how flexible is the word limit? What if your poignant anecdote is just 10 words too long—or 100 too short?

Can I Go Over the Word Limit?

If you are attaching a document and you need one or two extra words, you can probably get away with exceeding the word limit by such a small amount. Some colleges will actually tell you that exceeding the word limit by 1-2 words is fine. However, I advise against exceeding the word limit unless it's explicitly allowed for a few reasons:

First, you might not be able to. If you have to copy-paste it into a text box, your essay might get cut off and you'll have to trim it down anyway.

If you exceed the word limit in a noticeable way, the admissions counselor may just stop reading your essay past that point. This is not good for you.

Following directions is actually a very important part of the college application process. You need to follow directions to get your letters of recommendation, upload your essays, send supplemental materials, get your test scores sent, and so on and so forth. So it's just a good general rule to follow whatever instructions you've been given by the institution. Better safe than sorry!

Can I Go Under the Word Limit?

If you can truly get your point across well beneath the word limit, it's probably fine. Brevity is not necessarily a bad thing in writing just so long as you are clear, cogent, and communicate what you want to.

However, most college essays have pretty tight word limits anyways. So if you're writing 300 words for an essay with a 500-word limit, ask yourself: is there anything more you could say to elaborate on or support your points? Consult with a parent, friend, or teacher on where you could elaborate with more detail or expand your points.

Also, if the college gives you a word range, you absolutely need to at least hit the bottom end of the range. So if you get a range from the institution, like 400-500 words, you need to write at least 400 words. If you write less, it will come across like you have nothing to say, which is not an impression you want to give.

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What If There Is No Word Limit?

Some colleges don't give you a word limit for one or more of your essay prompts. This can be a little stressful, but the prompts generally fall into a few categories:

Writing Sample

Some colleges don't provide a hard-and-fast word limit because they want a writing sample from one of your classes. In this case, a word limit would be very limiting to you in terms of which assignments you could select from.

For an example of this kind of prompt, check out essay Option B at Amherst :

"Submit a graded paper from your junior or senior year that best represents your writing skills and analytical abilities. We are particularly interested in your ability to construct a tightly reasoned, persuasive argument that calls upon literary, sociological or historical evidence. You should NOT submit a laboratory report, journal entry, creative writing sample or in-class essay."

While there is usually no word limit per se, colleges sometimes provide a general page guideline for writing samples. In the FAQ for Option B , Amherst clarifies, "There is no hard-and-fast rule for official page limit. Typically, we anticipate a paper of 4-5 pages will provide adequate length to demonstrate your analytical abilities. Somewhat longer papers can also be submitted, but in most cases should not exceed 8-10 pages."

So even though there's no word limit, they'd like somewhere in the 4-10 pages range. High school students are not usually writing papers that are longer than 10 pages anyways, so that isn't very limiting.

Want to write the perfect college application essay?   We can help.   Your dedicated PrepScholar Admissions counselor will help you craft your perfect college essay, from the ground up. We learn your background and interests, brainstorm essay topics, and walk you through the essay drafting process, step-by-step. At the end, you'll have a unique essay to proudly submit to colleges.   Don't leave your college application to chance. Find out more about PrepScholar Admissions now:

Implicit Length Guideline

Sometimes, while there's no word (or even page) limit, there's still an implicit length guideline. What do I mean by this?

See, for example, this Western Washington University prompt :

“Describe one or more activities you have been involved in that have been particularly meaningful. What does your involvement say about the communities, identities or causes that are important to you?”

While there’s no page or word limit listed here, further down on page the ‘essay tips’ section explains that “ most essay responses are about 500 words, ” though “this is only a recommendation, not a firm limit.” This gives you an idea of what’s reasonable. A little longer or shorter than 500 words would be appropriate here. That’s what I mean by an “implicit” word limit—there is a reasonable length you could go to within the boundaries of the prompt.

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But what's the proper coffee-to-paragraph ratio?

Treasure Hunt

There is also the classic "treasure hunt" prompt. No, it's not a prompt about a treasure hunt. It's a prompt where there are no length guidelines given, but if you hunt around on the rest of the website you can find length guidelines.

For example, the University of Chicago provides seven "Extended Essay" prompts . You must write an essay in response to one prompt of your choosing, but nowhere on the page is there any guidance about word count or page limit.

However, many colleges provide additional details about their expectations for application materials, including essays, on FAQ pages, which is true of the University of Chicago. On the school’s admissions Frequently Asked Questions page , they provide the following length guidelines for the supplemental essays: 

“We suggest that you note any word limits for Coalition or Common Application essays; however, there are no strict word limits on the UChicago Supplement essays. For the extended essay (where you choose one of several prompts), we suggest that you aim for around 650 words. While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we're only human and cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention indefinitely. For the “Why UChicago?” essay, we suggest about 250-500 words. The ideas in your writing matter more than the exact number of words you use!”

So there you go! You want to be (loosely) in the realm of 650 for the extended essay, and 250-500 words for the “Why UChicago?” essay.

Help! There Really Is No Guidance on Length

If you really can't find any length guidelines anywhere on the admissions website and you're at a loss, I advise calling the admissions office. They may not be able to give you an exact number (in fact, they probably won't), but they will probably at least be able to tell you how long most of the essays they see are. (And keep you from writing a panicked, 20-page dissertation about your relationship with your dog).

In general, 500 words or so is pretty safe for a college essay. It's a fairly standard word limit length, in fact. (And if you're wondering, that's about a page and a half double-spaced.) 500 words is long enough to develop a basic idea while still getting a point across quickly—important when admissions counselors have thousands of essays to read!

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"See? It says 500 words right there in tiny font!"

The Final Word: How Long Should a College Essay Be?

The best college essay length is usually pretty straightforward: you want to be right under or at the provided word limit. If you go substantially past the word limit, you risk having your essay cut off by an online application form or having the admissions officer just not finish it. And if you're too far under the word limit, you may not be elaborating enough.

What if there is no word limit? Then how long should a college essay be? In general, around 500 words is a pretty safe approximate word amount for a college essay—it's one of the most common word limits, after all!

Here's guidance for special cases and hunting down word limits:

If it's a writing sample of your graded academic work, the length either doesn't matter or there should be some loose page guidelines.

There also may be implicit length guidelines. For example, if a prompt says to write three paragraphs, you'll know that writing six sentences is definitely too short, and two single-spaced pages is definitely too long.

You might not be able to find length guidelines in the prompt, but you could still hunt them up elsewhere on the website. Try checking FAQs or googling your chosen school name with "admissions essay word limit."

If there really is no word limit, you can call the school to try to get some guidance.

With this advice, you can be sure you've got the right college essay length on lockdown!

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Hey, writing about yourself can even be fun!

What's Next?

Need to ask a teacher or friend for help with your essay? See our do's and dont's to getting college essay advice .

If you're lacking in essay inspiration, see our guide to brainstorming college essay ideas . And here's our guide to starting out your essay perfectly!

Looking for college essay examples? See 11 places to find college essay examples and 145 essay examples with analysis !

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points or your ACT score by 4 points?   We've written a guide for each test about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download them for free now:

Ellen has extensive education mentorship experience and is deeply committed to helping students succeed in all areas of life. She received a BA from Harvard in Folklore and Mythology and is currently pursuing graduate studies at Columbia University.

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11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)

11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

Learn about our Editorial Process

How do you structure a paragraph in an essay?

If you’re like the majority of my students, you might be getting your basic essay paragraph structure wrong and getting lower grades than you could!

In this article, I outline the 11 key steps to writing a perfect paragraph. But, this isn’t your normal ‘how to write an essay’ article. Rather, I’ll try to give you some insight into exactly what teachers look out for when they’re grading essays and figuring out what grade to give them.

You can navigate each issue below, or scroll down to read them all:

1. Paragraphs must be at least four sentences long 2. But, at most seven sentences long 3. Your paragraph must be Left-Aligned 4. You need a topic sentence 5 . Next, you need an explanation sentence 6. You need to include an example 7. You need to include citations 8. All paragraphs need to be relevant to the marking criteria 9. Only include one key idea per paragraph 10. Keep sentences short 11. Keep quotes short

Paragraph structure is one of the most important elements of getting essay writing right .

As I cover in my Ultimate Guide to Writing an Essay Plan , paragraphs are the heart and soul of your essay.

However, I find most of my students have either:

  • forgotten how to write paragraphs properly,
  • gotten lazy, or
  • never learned it in the first place!

Paragraphs in essay writing are different from paragraphs in other written genres .

In fact, the paragraphs that you are reading now would not help your grades in an essay.

That’s because I’m writing in journalistic style, where paragraph conventions are vastly different.

For those of you coming from journalism or creative writing, you might find you need to re-learn paragraph writing if you want to write well-structured essay paragraphs to get top grades.

Below are eleven reasons your paragraphs are losing marks, and what to do about it!

11 tips for perfect paragraphs

Essay Paragraph Structure Rules

1. your paragraphs must be at least 4 sentences long.

In journalism and blog writing, a one-sentence paragraph is great. It’s short, to-the-point, and helps guide your reader. For essay paragraph structure, one-sentence paragraphs suck.

A one-sentence essay paragraph sends an instant signal to your teacher that you don’t have much to say on an issue.

A short paragraph signifies that you know something – but not much about it. A one-sentence paragraph lacks detail, depth and insight.

Many students come to me and ask, “what does ‘add depth’ mean?” It’s one of the most common pieces of feedback you’ll see written on the margins of your essay.

Personally, I think ‘add depth’ is bad feedback because it’s a short and vague comment. But, here’s what it means: You’ve not explained your point enough!

If you’re writing one-, two- or three-sentence essay paragraphs, you’re costing yourself marks.

Always aim for at least four sentences per paragraph in your essays.

This doesn’t mean that you should add ‘fluff’ or ‘padding’ sentences.

Make sure you don’t:

a) repeat what you said in different words, or b) write something just because you need another sentence in there.

But, you need to do some research and find something insightful to add to that two-sentence paragraph if you want to ace your essay.

Check out Points 5 and 6 for some advice on what to add to that short paragraph to add ‘depth’ to your paragraph and start moving to the top of the class.

  • How to Make an Essay Longer
  • How to Make an Essay Shorter

2. Your Paragraphs must not be more than 7 Sentences Long

Okay, so I just told you to aim for at least four sentences per paragraph. So, what’s the longest your paragraph should be?

Seven sentences. That’s a maximum.

So, here’s the rule:

Between four and seven sentences is the sweet spot that you need to aim for in every single paragraph.

Here’s why your paragraphs shouldn’t be longer than seven sentences:

1. It shows you can organize your thoughts. You need to show your teacher that you’ve broken up your key ideas into manageable segments of text (see point 10)

2. It makes your work easier to read.   You need your writing to be easily readable to make it easy for your teacher to give you good grades. Make your essay easy to read and you’ll get higher marks every time.

One of the most important ways you can make your work easier to read is by writing paragraphs that are less than six sentences long.

3. It prevents teacher frustration. Teachers are just like you. When they see a big block of text their eyes glaze over. They get frustrated, lost, their mind wanders … and you lose marks.

To prevent teacher frustration, you need to ensure there’s plenty of white space in your essay. It’s about showing them that the piece is clearly structured into one key idea per ‘chunk’ of text.

Often, you might find that your writing contains tautologies and other turns of phrase that can be shortened for clarity.

3. Your Paragraph must be Left-Aligned

Turn off ‘Justified’ text and: Never. Turn. It. On. Again.

Justified text is where the words are stretched out to make the paragraph look like a square. It turns the writing into a block. Don’t do it. You will lose marks, I promise you! Win the psychological game with your teacher: left-align your text.

A good essay paragraph is never ‘justified’.

I’m going to repeat this, because it’s important: to prevent your essay from looking like a big block of muddy, hard-to-read text align your text to the left margin only.

You want white space on your page – and lots of it. White space helps your reader scan through your work. It also prevents it from looking like big blocks of text.

You want your reader reading vertically as much as possible: scanning, browsing, and quickly looking through for evidence you’ve engaged with the big ideas.

The justified text doesn’t help you do that. Justified text makes your writing look like a big, lumpy block of text that your reader doesn’t want to read.

What’s wrong with Center-Aligned Text?

While I’m at it, never, ever, center-align your text either. Center-aligned text is impossible to skim-read. Your teacher wants to be able to quickly scan down the left margin to get the headline information in your paragraph.

Not many people center-align text, but it’s worth repeating: never, ever center-align your essays.

an infographic showing that left-aligned paragraphs are easy to read. The infographic recommends using Control plus L on a PC keyboard or Command plus L on a Mac to left align a paragraph

Don’t annoy your reader. Left align your text.

4. Your paragraphs must have a Topic Sentence

The first sentence of an essay paragraph is called the topic sentence. This is one of the most important sentences in the correct essay paragraph structure style.

The topic sentence should convey exactly what key idea you’re going to cover in your paragraph.

Too often, students don’t let their reader know what the key idea of the paragraph is until several sentences in.

You must show what the paragraph is about in the first sentence.

You never, ever want to keep your reader in suspense. Essays are not like creative writing. Tell them straight away what the paragraph is about. In fact, if you can, do it in the first half of the first sentence .

I’ll remind you again: make it easy to grade your work. Your teacher is reading through your work trying to determine what grade to give you. They’re probably going to mark 20 assignments in one sitting. They have no interest in storytelling or creativity. They just want to know how much you know! State what the paragraph is about immediately and move on.

Suggested: Best Words to Start a Paragraph

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing a Topic Sentence If your paragraph is about how climate change is endangering polar bears, say it immediately : “Climate change is endangering polar bears.” should be your first sentence in your paragraph. Take a look at first sentence of each of the four paragraphs above this one. You can see from the first sentence of each paragraph that the paragraphs discuss:

When editing your work, read each paragraph and try to distil what the one key idea is in your paragraph. Ensure that this key idea is mentioned in the first sentence .

(Note: if there’s more than one key idea in the paragraph, you may have a problem. See Point 9 below .)

The topic sentence is the most important sentence for getting your essay paragraph structure right. So, get your topic sentences right and you’re on the right track to a good essay paragraph.

5. You need an Explanation Sentence

All topic sentences need a follow-up explanation. The very first point on this page was that too often students write paragraphs that are too short. To add what is called ‘depth’ to a paragraph, you can come up with two types of follow-up sentences: explanations and examples.

Let’s take explanation sentences first.

Explanation sentences give additional detail. They often provide one of the following services:

Let’s go back to our example of a paragraph on Climate change endangering polar bears. If your topic sentence is “Climate change is endangering polar bears.”, then your follow-up explanation sentence is likely to explain how, why, where, or when. You could say:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing Explanation Sentences 1. How: “The warming atmosphere is melting the polar ice caps.” 2. Why: “The polar bears’ habitats are shrinking every single year.” 3. Where: “This is happening in the Antarctic ice caps near Greenland.” 4. When: “Scientists first noticed the ice caps were shrinking in 1978.”

You don’t have to provide all four of these options each time.

But, if you’re struggling to think of what to add to your paragraph to add depth, consider one of these four options for a good quality explanation sentence.

>>>RELATED ARTICLE: SHOULD YOU USE RHETORICAL QUESTIONS IN ESSAYS ?

6. Your need to Include an Example

Examples matter! They add detail. They also help to show that you genuinely understand the issue. They show that you don’t just understand a concept in the abstract; you also understand how things work in real life.

Example sentences have the added benefit of personalising an issue. For example, after saying “Polar bears’ habitats are shrinking”, you could note specific habitats, facts and figures, or even a specific story about a bear who was impacted.

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: Writing an ‘Example’ Sentence “For example, 770,000 square miles of Arctic Sea Ice has melted in the past four decades, leading Polar Bear populations to dwindle ( National Geographic, 2018 )

In fact, one of the most effective politicians of our times – Barrack Obama – was an expert at this technique. He would often provide examples of people who got sick because they didn’t have healthcare to sell Obamacare.

What effect did this have? It showed the real-world impact of his ideas. It humanised him, and got him elected president – twice!

Be like Obama. Provide examples. Often.

7. All Paragraphs need Citations

Provide a reference to an academic source in every single body paragraph in the essay. The only two paragraphs where you don’t need a reference is the introduction and conclusion .

Let me repeat: Paragraphs need at least one reference to a quality scholarly source .

Let me go even further:

Students who get the best marks provide two references to two different academic sources in every paragraph.

Two references in a paragraph show you’ve read widely, cross-checked your sources, and given the paragraph real thought.

It’s really important that these references link to academic sources, not random websites, blogs or YouTube videos. Check out our Seven Best types of Sources to Cite in Essays post to get advice on what sources to cite. Number 6 w ill surprise you!

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: In-Text Referencing in Paragraphs Usually, in-text referencing takes the format: (Author, YEAR), but check your school’s referencing formatting requirements carefully. The ‘Author’ section is the author’s last name only. Not their initials. Not their first name. Just their last name . My name is Chris Drew. First name Chris, last name Drew. If you were going to reference an academic article I wrote in 2019, you would reference it like this: (Drew, 2019).

Where do you place those two references?

Place the first reference at the end of the first half of the paragraph. Place the second reference at the end of the second half of the paragraph.

This spreads the references out and makes it look like all the points throughout the paragraph are backed up by your sources. The goal is to make it look like you’ve reference regularly when your teacher scans through your work.

Remember, teachers can look out for signposts that indicate you’ve followed academic conventions and mentioned the right key ideas.

Spreading your referencing through the paragraph helps to make it look like you’ve followed the academic convention of referencing sources regularly.

Here are some examples of how to reference twice in a paragraph:

  • If your paragraph was six sentences long, you would place your first reference at the end of the third sentence and your second reference at the end of the sixth sentence.
  • If your paragraph was five sentences long, I would recommend placing one at the end of the second sentence and one at the end of the fifth sentence.

You’ve just read one of the key secrets to winning top marks.

8. Every Paragraph must be relevant to the Marking Criteria

Every paragraph must win you marks. When you’re editing your work, check through the piece to see if every paragraph is relevant to the marking criteria.

For the British: In the British university system (I’m including Australia and New Zealand here – I’ve taught at universities in all three countries), you’ll usually have a ‘marking criteria’. It’s usually a list of between two and six key learning outcomes your teacher needs to use to come up with your score. Sometimes it’s called a:

  • Marking criteria
  • Marking rubric
  • (Key) learning outcome
  • Indicative content

Check your assignment guidance to see if this is present. If so, use this list of learning outcomes to guide what you write. If your paragraphs are irrelevant to these key points, delete the paragraph .

Paragraphs that don’t link to the marking criteria are pointless. They won’t win you marks.

For the Americans: If you don’t have a marking criteria / rubric / outcomes list, you’ll need to stick closely to the essay question or topic. This goes out to those of you in the North American system. North America (including USA and Canada here) is often less structured and the professor might just give you a topic to base your essay on.

If all you’ve got is the essay question / topic, go through each paragraph and make sure each paragraph is relevant to the topic.

For example, if your essay question / topic is on “The Effects of Climate Change on Polar Bears”,

  • Don’t talk about anything that doesn’t have some connection to climate change and polar bears;
  • Don’t talk about the environmental impact of oil spills in the Gulf of Carpentaria;
  • Don’t talk about black bear habitats in British Columbia.
  • Do talk about the effects of climate change on polar bears (and relevant related topics) in every single paragraph .

You may think ‘stay relevant’ is obvious advice, but at least 20% of all essays I mark go off on tangents and waste words.

Stay on topic in Every. Single. Paragraph. If you want to learn more about how to stay on topic, check out our essay planning guide .

9. Only have one Key Idea per Paragraph

One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph. One key idea for each paragraph.

Don’t forget!

Too often, a student starts a paragraph talking about one thing and ends it talking about something totally different. Don’t be that student.

To ensure you’re focussing on one key idea in your paragraph, make sure you know what that key idea is. It should be mentioned in your topic sentence (see Point 3 ). Every other sentence in the paragraph adds depth to that one key idea.

If you’ve got sentences in your paragraph that are not relevant to the key idea in the paragraph, they don’t fit. They belong in another paragraph.

Go through all your paragraphs when editing your work and check to see if you’ve veered away from your paragraph’s key idea. If so, you might have two or even three key ideas in the one paragraph.

You’re going to have to get those additional key ideas, rip them out, and give them paragraphs of their own.

If you have more than one key idea in a paragraph you will lose marks. I promise you that.

The paragraphs will be too hard to read, your reader will get bogged down reading rather than scanning, and you’ll have lost grades.

10. Keep Sentences Short

If a sentence is too long it gets confusing. When the sentence is confusing, your reader will stop reading your work. They will stop reading the paragraph and move to the next one. They’ll have given up on your paragraph.

Short, snappy sentences are best.

Shorter sentences are easier to read and they make more sense. Too often, students think they have to use big, long, academic words to get the best marks. Wrong. Aim for clarity in every sentence in the paragraph. Your teacher will thank you for it.

The students who get the best marks write clear, short sentences.

When editing your draft, go through your essay and see if you can shorten your longest five sentences.

(To learn more about how to write the best quality sentences, see our page on Seven ways to Write Amazing Sentences .)

11. Keep Quotes Short

Eighty percent of university teachers hate quotes. That’s not an official figure. It’s my guestimate based on my many interactions in faculty lounges. Twenty percent don’t mind them, but chances are your teacher is one of the eight out of ten who hate quotes.

Teachers tend to be turned off by quotes because it makes it look like you don’t know how to say something on your own words.

Now that I’ve warned you, here’s how to use quotes properly:

Ideal Essay Paragraph Structure Example: How To Use Quotes in University-Level Essay Paragraphs 1. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 2. Your quote should be less than one sentence long. 3. You should never start a sentence with a quote. 4. You should never end a paragraph with a quote. 5 . You should never use more than five quotes per essay. 6. Your quote should never be longer than one line in a paragraph.

The minute your teacher sees that your quote takes up a large chunk of your paragraph, you’ll have lost marks.

Your teacher will circle the quote, write a snarky comment in the margin, and not even bother to give you points for the key idea in the paragraph.

Avoid quotes, but if you really want to use them, follow those five rules above.

I’ve also provided additional pages outlining Seven tips on how to use Quotes if you want to delve deeper into how, when and where to use quotes in essays. Be warned: quoting in essays is harder than you thought.

The basic essay paragraph structure formula includes: 4-6 sentence paragraphs; a clear topic sentence; useful explanations and examples; a focus on one key idea only; and references to two different academic sources.

Follow the advice above and you’ll be well on your way to getting top marks at university.

Writing essay paragraphs that are well structured takes time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself and keep on trying!

Below is a summary of our 11 key mistakes for structuring essay paragraphs and tips on how to avoid them.

I’ve also provided an easy-to-share infographic below that you can share on your favorite social networking site. Please share it if this article has helped you out!

11 Biggest Essay Paragraph Structure Mistakes you’re probably Making

1.  Your paragraphs are too short 2.  Your paragraphs are too long 3.  Your paragraph alignment is ‘Justified’ 4.  Your paragraphs are missing a topic sentence 5 .  Your paragraphs are missing an explanation sentence 6.  Your paragraphs are missing an example 7.  Your paragraphs are missing references 8.  Your paragraphs are not relevant to the marking criteria 9.  You’re trying to fit too many ideas into the one paragraph 10.  Your sentences are too long 11.  Your quotes are too long

Chris

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 19 Top Cognitive Psychology Theories (Explained)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 119 Bloom’s Taxonomy Examples
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ All 6 Levels of Understanding (on Bloom’s Taxonomy)
  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 15 Self-Actualization Examples (Maslow's Hierarchy)

4 thoughts on “11 Rules for Essay Paragraph Structure (with Examples)”

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Hello there. I noticed that throughout this article on Essay Writing, you keep on saying that the teacher won’t have time to go through the entire essay. Don’t you think this is a bit discouraging that with all the hard work and time put into your writing, to know that the teacher will not read through the entire paper?

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Hi Clarence,

Thanks so much for your comment! I love to hear from readers on their thoughts.

Yes, I agree that it’s incredibly disheartening.

But, I also think students would appreciate hearing the truth.

Behind closed doors many / most university teachers are very open about the fact they ‘only have time to skim-read papers’. They regularly bring this up during heated faculty meetings about contract negotiations! I.e. in one university I worked at, we were allocated 45 minutes per 10,000 words – that’s just over 4 minutes per 1,000 word essay, and that’d include writing the feedback, too!

If students know the truth, they can better write their essays in a way that will get across the key points even from a ‘skim-read’.

I hope to write candidly on this website – i.e. some of this info will never be written on university blogs because universities want to hide these unfortunate truths from students.

Thanks so much for stopping by!

Regards, Chris

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This is wonderful and helpful, all I say is thank you very much. Because I learned a lot from this site, own by chris thank you Sir.

' src=

Thank you. This helped a lot.

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Home ➔ Essay Length Questions ➔ How Long Is a Typical Essay?

How Long Is a Typical Essay?

The word count of your essay mostly depends on your educational level, subject, department, course, and tutor’s instructions. This piece of writing is normally shorter than research papers or dissertations. But how long should an essay be exactly?

Generally, the length requirements are indicated in your assignment sheet. It can be words, paragraphs, or pages given as a range (300–500 words) or a particular number (5 pages). If you are not sure about your essay’s length, the number-one tip is to clarify it with your tutor. Also, if you’re not sure how to write an essay , we have a detailed guide on that topic, just follow the link.

We will review all the factors you must consider when it comes to an essay’s length, but here’s a quick answer to questions like, “How many words in an essay or how many paragraphs does an essay have?”

An essay is five paragraphs long on average, which is around 400–700 words.

Essay Length Tips

The tips below relate to academic essays that are given as a writing assignment. Everything that concerns admissions essays will be discussed in the following section.

  • Three is the minimum number of paragraphs for essays (intro, body, and conclusion).
  • The most common structure for a basic paper is the five-paragraph essay.
  • The length of the introduction and conclusion paragraphs is always proportionally smaller.
  • Each body paragraph must cover only one central idea, which is your topic sentence.
  • A double-spaced page with text written in Times New Roman (12pt) usually contains about 275 words.
  • A single-spaced page can fit double the amount, which is about 550 words.

How long should each essay part be?

If it’s a short essay (400–1000 words), each paragraph usually contains 100–200 words. The introduction and conclusion should be roughly the same in length and shorter than the overall word count of the body section.

According to Jennifer Duncan from The Writing Centre (the University of Toronto at Scarborough), for a 1000-word essay, its introduction and conclusion should be 4–5 sentences each. If your word count must be bigger, the length of these sections can be several paragraphs or even pages.

You might have seen conversion tables that say, “This number of words equals this number of paragraphs.” They all are based on a fixed length for each paragraph and are not very accurate. Yes, an essay that’s 400–800 words long can be converted like that. But, when your paper is bigger than a thousand words, your paragraphs can scale along, which means their number won’t grow exponentially with the overall essay size. For instance, if a 700-word essay comprises five paragraphs, a long essay (2000 words) won’t necessarily have fifteen paragraphs.

How long should a college essay be?

Here, “college essays” imply essays written for admissions. Admissions essays are quite different from the ones you get as homework. Usually, their chief goal is to show to the board that you are a worthy applicant. All the details about such essays should be publicly available on the college’s website in the appropriate section. But, if you don’t know the word count requirement and can’t find it, you still have some options. Below is a quick answer to the “how long is a college essay” question.

An average college essay is about 500 words long.

Admissions essay length tips

  • Once you open the college’s site, look for phrases like “essay questions,” “information about supplemental essays,” “application instructions,” etc.
  • As a rule, admissions essays are short (250–600 words) because board officers have to go through a lot of them daily.
  • Do not exceed the given range by too much: if it says 500–550 words, the maximum length would be 600.
  • When exceeding the word limit, your essay may not even end up being read to the end, so be mindful.

What if there are no length guidelines?

Sometimes colleges will not indicate a length limit for their essay prompts. But, don’t worry just yet because there are several ways to deal with this situation.

1. You need to send a sample of your writing.

They might have several options for applicants. Amherst College provides you with a choice: you can either (Option A) write a response to one of the quotations from the list or (Option B) submit a graded paper that best shows your writing skills. The last option implies that you have a set of papers to choose from, so you’re limited by their word count. But usually, there’s a page that contains guidelines for paper samples.

2. You can understand how long it should be from the description.

In its essay prompt guidelines, Wellesley College doesn’t give you a range of words or pages. Instead, it says, “in two well-developed paragraphs.” That means paragraphs can be quite long but within a reasonable limit, which is about 450–500 words. So this is when you’ll need to estimate or even guess a bit.

3. You need to search for the length requirements.

It can happen that essay length guidelines are not on the same page as the prompts. However, once you google, you can find posts on forums and social networks that discuss these essay writing requirements. You can also try searching “long” or “length” within the college site by typing “site:yourcollegewebsite.com” with those words.

4. You must call the admissions office.

If word limit instructions are nowhere to be found, you should call the admissions office. Even if they don’t have an exact number, they can tell you how long an essay should be based on the ones they had received before.

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Sentence length will vary based on the paper type you’re working on. In narrative essays , you have to tell a story, which means sentences can be very long (up to 50 words). But general advice would be to keep sentences shorter than 25 words. Considering that, a 500-word essay would have somewhere between 20 to 45 sentences.

In short, you do. Unfortunately, the education system is “lazy” in this regard. Even though minimum length requirements force students to stretch their writing by adding fluff and verbose phrases, if those restraints were no more, some students would abuse that and submit essays far too short. Although some educators give a small margin over or under the word count, it’s better to write within the given range.

Your introductions and conclusion are usually smaller than body paragraphs. Hence, they will contain fewer sentences. For a 300-word paper, the first and last paragraphs will be about 3–5 sentences each, and every main paragraph will consist of 5–7 sentences.

The list of references

Here, you may find additional information on the topic:

  • Paragraph Length — Aims Community College
  • Writing Introductions and Conclusions — the University of Toronto at Scarborough

Was this article helpful?

English Composition 1

Expectations for all essays.

  • A required minimum length is given for each essay. This is a required minimum. The grade of an essay not meeting the required minimum length will be reduced substantially, and an essay will receive a failing grade if it is significantly below the minimum required length. 
  • Each essay should be formatted according to the guidelines on The Proper Format for Essays Web page.
  • Each essay should have at least five paragraphs, including an introduction and a conclusion.
  • Each essay should include a one-sentence thesis statement in the introduction that (1) identifies the topic, (2) identified the main ideas presented in the paper, (3) clarifies how the ideas are logically related, and (4) conveys the main point of the paper.
  • Each body paragraph should include a clear topic sentence, preferably as the first sentence, that identifies the main point to be developed or argued in the paragraph.
  • Each body paragraph should be at least half of a page long (double spaced). In general, introductions and conclusions are not as long as body paragraphs.
  • A formal writing voice should be used in each essay. This means the writer should avoid use of first-person pronouns ("I," "me," etc.), should avoid the use of contractions ("can't," "won't," etc.), and should avoid the use of slang or informal expressions.  

Copyright Randy Rambo , 2019.

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How Many Paragraphs Should an Essay Have?

How Many Paragraphs Should an Essay Have?

  • 6-minute read
  • 19th May 2023

You have an essay to write. You’ve researched the topic and crafted a strong thesis statement . Now it’s time to open the laptop and start tapping away on the keyboard. You know the required word count, but you’re unsure of one thing: How many paragraphs should you have in the essay? Gee, it would’ve been nice if your professor had specified that, huh?

No worries, friend, because in this post, we’ll provide a guide to how many paragraphs an essay should have . Generally, the number of paragraphs will depend on how many words and how many supporting details you need (more on that later). We’ll also explore the concept of paragraphs if you’re wondering what they’re all about. And remember, paragraphs serve a purpose. You can’t submit an essay without using them!

What Is a Paragraph?

You likely know what a paragraph is, but can you define it properly in plain English? Don’t feel bad if that question made you shake your head. Off the top of our heads, many of us can’t explain what a paragraph is .

A paragraph comprises at least five sentences about a particular topic. A paragraph must begin with a well-crafted topic sentence , which is then followed by ideas that support that sentence. To move the essay forward, the paragraph should flow well, and the sentences should be relevant.

Why Are Paragraphs Important?

Paragraphs expand on points you make about a topic, painting a vivid picture for the reader. Paragraphs break down information into chunks, which are easier to read than one giant, uninterrupted body of text. If your essay doesn’t use paragraphs, it likely won’t earn a good grade!

 How Many Paragraphs Are in an Essay?

As mentioned, the number of paragraphs will depend on the word count and the quantity of supporting ideas required. However, if you have to write at least 1,000 words, you should aim for at least five paragraphs. Every essay should have an introduction and a conclusion. The reader needs to get a basic introduction to the topic and understand your thesis statement. They must also see key takeaway points at the end of the essay.

As a rule, a five-paragraph essay would look like this:

  • Introduction (with thesis statement)
  • Main idea 1 (with supporting details)
  • Main idea 2 (with supporting details)
  • Main idea 3 (with supporting details)

Your supporting details should include material (such as quotations or facts) from credible sources when writing the main idea paragraphs.

If you think your essay could benefit from having more than five paragraphs, add them! Just make sure they’re relevant to the topic.

Professors don’t care so much about the number of paragraphs; they want you to satisfy the minimum word requirement. Assignment rubrics rarely state the number of required paragraphs. It will be up to you to decide how many to write, and we urge you to research the assigned topic before writing the essay. Your main ideas from the research will generate most of the paragraphs.

When Should I Start a New Paragraph?

Surprisingly, some students aren’t aware that they should break up some of the paragraphs in their essays . You need to start new paragraphs to keep your reader engaged.

As well as starting a new paragraph after the introduction and another for the conclusion, you should do so when you’re introducing a new idea or presenting contrasting information.

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Starting a paragraph often involves using transitional words or phrases to signal to the reader that you’re presenting a new idea. Failing to use these cues may cause confusion for the reader and undermine your essay’s coherence.

Let’s consider examples of transitional words and phrases in action in a conclusion. Note that the essay is about too much mobile device screen time and that transitional words and phrases can occur later in a paragraph too:

Thanks to “In conclusion” and “Additionally,” the reader clearly knows that they are now in the conclusion stage. They can also follow the logic and development of the essay more easily.

How Do I Know Whether I Have Enough Paragraphs?

While no magic number exists for how many paragraphs you need, you should know when you have enough to satisfy the requirements of the assignment. It helps if you can answer yes to the following questions:

  • Does my essay have both an introduction and a conclusion?
  • Have I provided enough main ideas with supporting details, including quotes and cited information?
  • Does my essay develop the thesis statement?
  • Does my essay adequately inform the reader about the topic?
  • Have I provided at least one takeaway for the reader?

 Conclusion

Professors aren’t necessarily looking for a specific number of paragraphs in an essay; it’s the word count that matters. You should see the word count as a guide for a suitable number of paragraphs. As a rule, five paragraphs should suffice for a 1,000-word essay. As long as you have an introduction and a conclusion and provide enough supporting details for the main ideas in your body paragraphs, you should be good to go.

Remember to start a new paragraph when introducing new ideas or presenting contrasting information. Your reader needs to be able to follow the essay throughout, and a single, unbroken block of text would be difficult to read. Transitional words and phrases help start new paragraphs, so don’t forget to use them!

As with any writing, we always recommend proofreading your essay after you’ve finished it. This step will help to detect typos, extra spacing, and grammatical errors. A second pair of eyes is always useful, so we recommend asking our proofreading experts to review your essay . They’ll correct your grammar, ensure perfect spelling, and offer suggestions to improve your essay. You can even submit a 500-word document for free!

1. What is a paragraph and what is its purpose?

A paragraph is a group of sentences that expand on a single idea. The purpose of a paragraph is to introduce an idea and then develop it with supporting details.

2. What are the benefits of paragraphs?

Paragraphs make your essay easy to read by providing structure and flow. They let you transition from one idea to another. New paragraphs allow you to tell your reader that you’ve covered one point and are moving on to the next.

3. How many paragraphs does a typical essay have?

An essay of at least 1,000 words usually has five paragraphs. It’s best to use the required word count as a guide to the number of paragraphs you’ll need.

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How to Write an Essay Introduction (with Examples)   

essay introduction

The introduction of an essay plays a critical role in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. It sets the stage for the rest of the essay, establishes the tone and style, and motivates the reader to continue reading. 

Table of Contents

What is an essay introduction , what to include in an essay introduction, how to create an essay structure , step-by-step process for writing an essay introduction , how to write an introduction paragraph , how to write a hook for your essay , how to include background information , how to write a thesis statement .

  • Argumentative Essay Introduction Example: 
  • Expository Essay Introduction Example 

Literary Analysis Essay Introduction Example

Check and revise – checklist for essay introduction , key takeaways , frequently asked questions .

An introduction is the opening section of an essay, paper, or other written work. It introduces the topic and provides background information, context, and an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the work. 1 The key is to be concise and to the point, providing enough information to engage the reader without delving into excessive detail. 

The essay introduction is crucial as it sets the tone for the entire piece and provides the reader with a roadmap of what to expect. Here are key elements to include in your essay introduction: 

  • Hook : Start with an attention-grabbing statement or question to engage the reader. This could be a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or a compelling anecdote. 
  • Background information : Provide context and background information to help the reader understand the topic. This can include historical information, definitions of key terms, or an overview of the current state of affairs related to your topic. 
  • Thesis statement : Clearly state your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis should be concise and specific, providing a clear direction for your essay. 

Before we get into how to write an essay introduction, we need to know how it is structured. The structure of an essay is crucial for organizing your thoughts and presenting them clearly and logically. It is divided as follows: 2  

  • Introduction:  The introduction should grab the reader’s attention with a hook, provide context, and include a thesis statement that presents the main argument or purpose of the essay.  
  • Body:  The body should consist of focused paragraphs that support your thesis statement using evidence and analysis. Each paragraph should concentrate on a single central idea or argument and provide evidence, examples, or analysis to back it up.  
  • Conclusion:  The conclusion should summarize the main points and restate the thesis differently. End with a final statement that leaves a lasting impression on the reader. Avoid new information or arguments. 

what is the minimum sentences in an essay

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an essay introduction: 

  • Start with a Hook : Begin your introduction paragraph with an attention-grabbing statement, question, quote, or anecdote related to your topic. The hook should pique the reader’s interest and encourage them to continue reading. 
  • Provide Background Information : This helps the reader understand the relevance and importance of the topic. 
  • State Your Thesis Statement : The last sentence is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be clear, concise, and directly address the topic of your essay. 
  • Preview the Main Points : This gives the reader an idea of what to expect and how you will support your thesis. 
  • Keep it Concise and Clear : Avoid going into too much detail or including information not directly relevant to your topic. 
  • Revise : Revise your introduction after you’ve written the rest of your essay to ensure it aligns with your final argument. 

Here’s an example of an essay introduction paragraph about the importance of education: 

Education is often viewed as a fundamental human right and a key social and economic development driver. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It is the key to unlocking a wide range of opportunities and benefits for individuals, societies, and nations. In today’s constantly evolving world, education has become even more critical. It has expanded beyond traditional classroom learning to include digital and remote learning, making education more accessible and convenient. This essay will delve into the importance of education in empowering individuals to achieve their dreams, improving societies by promoting social justice and equality, and driving economic growth by developing a skilled workforce and promoting innovation. 

This introduction paragraph example includes a hook (the quote by Nelson Mandela), provides some background information on education, and states the thesis statement (the importance of education). 

This is one of the key steps in how to write an essay introduction. Crafting a compelling hook is vital because it sets the tone for your entire essay and determines whether your readers will stay interested. A good hook draws the reader in and sets the stage for the rest of your essay.  

  • Avoid Dry Fact : Instead of simply stating a bland fact, try to make it engaging and relevant to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about the benefits of exercise, you could start with a startling statistic like, “Did you know that regular exercise can increase your lifespan by up to seven years?” 
  • Avoid Using a Dictionary Definition : While definitions can be informative, they’re not always the most captivating way to start an essay. Instead, try to use a quote, anecdote, or provocative question to pique the reader’s interest. For instance, if you’re writing about freedom, you could begin with a quote from a famous freedom fighter or philosopher. 
  • Do Not Just State a Fact That the Reader Already Knows : This ties back to the first point—your hook should surprise or intrigue the reader. For Here’s an introduction paragraph example, if you’re writing about climate change, you could start with a thought-provoking statement like, “Despite overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe in the reality of climate change.” 

Including background information in the introduction section of your essay is important to provide context and establish the relevance of your topic. When writing the background information, you can follow these steps: 

  • Start with a General Statement:  Begin with a general statement about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific focus. For example, when discussing the impact of social media, you can begin by making a broad statement about social media and its widespread use in today’s society, as follows: “Social media has become an integral part of modern life, with billions of users worldwide.” 
  • Define Key Terms : Define any key terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to your readers but are essential for understanding your argument. 
  • Provide Relevant Statistics:  Use statistics or facts to highlight the significance of the issue you’re discussing. For instance, “According to a report by Statista, the number of social media users is expected to reach 4.41 billion by 2025.” 
  • Discuss the Evolution:  Mention previous research or studies that have been conducted on the topic, especially those that are relevant to your argument. Mention key milestones or developments that have shaped its current impact. You can also outline some of the major effects of social media. For example, you can briefly describe how social media has evolved, including positives such as increased connectivity and issues like cyberbullying and privacy concerns. 
  • Transition to Your Thesis:  Use the background information to lead into your thesis statement, which should clearly state the main argument or purpose of your essay. For example, “Given its pervasive influence, it is crucial to examine the impact of social media on mental health.” 

what is the minimum sentences in an essay

A thesis statement is a concise summary of the main point or claim of an essay, research paper, or other type of academic writing. It appears near the end of the introduction. Here’s how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Identify the topic:  Start by identifying the topic of your essay. For example, if your essay is about the importance of exercise for overall health, your topic is “exercise.” 
  • State your position:  Next, state your position or claim about the topic. This is the main argument or point you want to make. For example, if you believe that regular exercise is crucial for maintaining good health, your position could be: “Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health.” 
  • Support your position:  Provide a brief overview of the reasons or evidence that support your position. These will be the main points of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about the importance of exercise, you could mention the physical health benefits, mental health benefits, and the role of exercise in disease prevention. 
  • Make it specific:  Ensure your thesis statement clearly states what you will discuss in your essay. For example, instead of saying, “Exercise is good for you,” you could say, “Regular exercise, including cardiovascular and strength training, can improve overall health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.” 

Examples of essay introduction 

Here are examples of essay introductions for different types of essays: 

Argumentative Essay Introduction Example:  

Topic: Should the voting age be lowered to 16? 

“The question of whether the voting age should be lowered to 16 has sparked nationwide debate. While some argue that 16-year-olds lack the requisite maturity and knowledge to make informed decisions, others argue that doing so would imbue young people with agency and give them a voice in shaping their future.” 

Expository Essay Introduction Example  

Topic: The benefits of regular exercise 

“In today’s fast-paced world, the importance of regular exercise cannot be overstated. From improving physical health to boosting mental well-being, the benefits of exercise are numerous and far-reaching. This essay will examine the various advantages of regular exercise and provide tips on incorporating it into your daily routine.” 

Text: “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee 

“Harper Lee’s novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is a timeless classic that explores themes of racism, injustice, and morality in the American South. Through the eyes of young Scout Finch, the reader is taken on a journey that challenges societal norms and forces characters to confront their prejudices. This essay will analyze the novel’s use of symbolism, character development, and narrative structure to uncover its deeper meaning and relevance to contemporary society.” 

  • Engaging and Relevant First Sentence : The opening sentence captures the reader’s attention and relates directly to the topic. 
  • Background Information : Enough background information is introduced to provide context for the thesis statement. 
  • Definition of Important Terms : Key terms or concepts that might be unfamiliar to the audience or are central to the argument are defined. 
  • Clear Thesis Statement : The thesis statement presents the main point or argument of the essay. 
  • Relevance to Main Body : Everything in the introduction directly relates to and sets up the discussion in the main body of the essay. 

what is the minimum sentences in an essay

Writing a strong introduction is crucial for setting the tone and context of your essay. Here are the key takeaways for how to write essay introduction: 3  

  • Hook the Reader : Start with an engaging hook to grab the reader’s attention. This could be a compelling question, a surprising fact, a relevant quote, or an anecdote. 
  • Provide Background : Give a brief overview of the topic, setting the context and stage for the discussion. 
  • Thesis Statement : State your thesis, which is the main argument or point of your essay. It should be concise, clear, and specific. 
  • Preview the Structure : Outline the main points or arguments to help the reader understand the organization of your essay. 
  • Keep it Concise : Avoid including unnecessary details or information not directly related to your thesis. 
  • Revise and Edit : Revise your introduction to ensure clarity, coherence, and relevance. Check for grammar and spelling errors. 
  • Seek Feedback : Get feedback from peers or instructors to improve your introduction further. 

The purpose of an essay introduction is to give an overview of the topic, context, and main ideas of the essay. It is meant to engage the reader, establish the tone for the rest of the essay, and introduce the thesis statement or central argument.  

An essay introduction typically ranges from 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 1,000-word essay, the introduction would be roughly 50-100 words. However, the length can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the overall length of the essay.

An essay introduction is critical in engaging the reader and providing contextual information about the topic. To ensure its effectiveness, consider incorporating these key elements: a compelling hook, background information, a clear thesis statement, an outline of the essay’s scope, a smooth transition to the body, and optional signposting sentences.  

The process of writing an essay introduction is not necessarily straightforward, but there are several strategies that can be employed to achieve this end. When experiencing difficulty initiating the process, consider the following techniques: begin with an anecdote, a quotation, an image, a question, or a startling fact to pique the reader’s interest. It may also be helpful to consider the five W’s of journalism: who, what, when, where, why, and how.   For instance, an anecdotal opening could be structured as follows: “As I ascended the stage, momentarily blinded by the intense lights, I could sense the weight of a hundred eyes upon me, anticipating my next move. The topic of discussion was climate change, a subject I was passionate about, and it was my first public speaking event. Little did I know , that pivotal moment would not only alter my perspective but also chart my life’s course.” 

Crafting a compelling thesis statement for your introduction paragraph is crucial to grab your reader’s attention. To achieve this, avoid using overused phrases such as “In this paper, I will write about” or “I will focus on” as they lack originality. Instead, strive to engage your reader by substantiating your stance or proposition with a “so what” clause. While writing your thesis statement, aim to be precise, succinct, and clear in conveying your main argument.  

To create an effective essay introduction, ensure it is clear, engaging, relevant, and contains a concise thesis statement. It should transition smoothly into the essay and be long enough to cover necessary points but not become overwhelming. Seek feedback from peers or instructors to assess its effectiveness. 

References  

  • Cui, L. (2022). Unit 6 Essay Introduction.  Building Academic Writing Skills . 
  • West, H., Malcolm, G., Keywood, S., & Hill, J. (2019). Writing a successful essay.  Journal of Geography in Higher Education ,  43 (4), 609-617. 
  • Beavers, M. E., Thoune, D. L., & McBeth, M. (2023). Bibliographic Essay: Reading, Researching, Teaching, and Writing with Hooks: A Queer Literacy Sponsorship. College English, 85(3), 230-242. 

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How Many Words Should Your Essay Have for Grading High?

How many words are in an essay?

This question bothers all students, whether in middle school or college. Two reasons:

They don’t have word count guidelines to know how long their essay should be to grade high. Or, they struggle with the word limit within a paper and wonder if they can go under the suggested length.

The essay length varies, depending on many factors: subject, purpose, and academic level. Essays are usually shorter than dissertations or research papers. The thesis is the longest one.

In this article, I’ll answer two popular questions: How long is an essay? How many paragraphs are in an essay?

Also, let’s learn how long each essay part is and if it’s okay to go beyond or under the suggested length.

How Long is an Essay, Depending on the Type?

High-school350-1,000Students learn to write standard 5-paragraph essays with an intro, core, and conclusion.
College admission250-650These are concise texts, with a word limit prescribed by admission officers. Applicants write essays expressing their motives to enter a particular college.
Undergraduate1,500-5,000The length depends on several factors: subject, paper type, and purpose.
Graduate admission500-1,000Like admission essays, these are statements about achievements and motivations to continue learning.
Graduate2,500-6,000These are enhanced research papers with more complex structures. You write them to prove your Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees.

The above rules are average. They may vary at different educational institutions. It stands to reason that elementary-level students write short essays. And their papers get longer in their middle 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th grades, etc.

Often, there’s no exact word number or page count for academic papers. Guidelines usually prescribe a supposed range: 500-850 words, 5-7 pages, and so on. When in doubt, you can ask your instructor.

How Many Paragraphs is an Essay? 6 Main Lengths

You won’t find any rule prescribing a set number of paragraphs for an essay. Five-paragraph essays are a standard, but it doesn’t mean ALL papers should follow it.

Each essay consists of three parts:

  • Introduction . Often, it’s one paragraph introducing your topic and thesis to readers. When writing complex papers like dissertations, your intro section can be 2-3 paragraphs.
  • Body. It’s a core section discussing the topic in detail. The number of paragraphs here depends on your paper’s type and complexity. This part is 1-4 paragraphs unless you write extended research papers.
  • Conclusion. Like intros, this section is often one paragraph summarizing the essay.

Below, I’ll cover the six main lengths to show how to balance a word count in essays.

One-paragraph essays

150-200Aimed at practicing the concepts of paragraph writing. It can be a summary or an extended definition. Common for elementary and middle school students.

Three-paragraph papers

500
– Intro paragraph = 25%
– Body paragraph = 50%
– Concluding paragraph = 25%

Assigned to practice cohesive and logical writing with introduction, body, and conclusion. The body section is the longest one here.

Five-paragraph essays

1,000
– Intro = 100-200
– Body paragraph 1 = 150-250
– Body paragraph 2 = 150-250
– Body paragraph 3 = 150-250
– Conclusion = 100-150

It’s a standard essay structure for high school students learning to build arguments. Most types of fall into this category.

Extended papers

1,500; 3,000; 5,000
– Check the guidelines
+/- 10% of the prescribed length allowed

Assigned in college to undergraduates getting their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. Such papers need deep research and may be of a more complex structure.

Dissertation

10,000; 15,000
Paragraph length by section, in % of the total length:

– Abstract – 5%
– Intro – 10%
– Literature review – 25%
– Methodology – 15%
– Result – 20%
– Discussion – 15%
– Conclusion – 10%

It’s a final project for Bachelor’s and Master’s to prove they’re worth their degree. Dissertations have a complex structure and need original research.
40,000-60,000
Paragraph length by section, in % of the total length:

– Abstract – 5%
– Intro – 10%
– Literature review – 25%
– Methodology – 15%
– Result – 20%
– Discussion – 15%
– Conclusion – 10%

Assigned to doctoral students getting PhDs. Its structure is as complex as a dissertation but with more details. The focus is on the research and data analysis.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Is essay length important.

Yes, it is. Prescribing a length, instructors understand if you can organize thoughts and arguments. An essay of 1,000 words requires more research and effort than a 350-word paper, agree? The specified length also helps you understand how complex your work should be to grade high. Longer essays teach you to write cohesive texts, choose arguments, and think critically.

Don’t write essays for the sake of count. Quality matters, so please focus on arguments, evidence, and analysis. Avoid placing too many transitions, generic words, and lengthy expressions. Make your every word and sentence count.

How many words are in an essay sample?

350 words at least.

It depends on the essay type you write. Thus, a high school essay sample will be 350 words at least. If you need a college application essay, consider personal papers of 250-650 words. Check essay samples of 800-1,000 words if you need a standard college paper. More complex works like graduate school essays or dissertations will be 3,000+ words.

How long is each part of an essay?

Stick to the 80/20 rule when calculating the length of each essay part. An essay body is the core section of academic papers: Make it 80% of the text. The remaining 20% goes to an introduction and a conclusion.

Say you write a 1,000-word essay. It means you will have 800 words in the body; 100 words go to the introduction and 100 words — for a concluding paragraph. You can go 10% below or above the prescribed limit. (Unless your instructor sets specific limitations.)

How many sentences are in an essay?

21-34 sentences for a standard 5-paragraph essay.

It depends on your essay type and the required word count. I’ll take a standard 5-paragraph college paper as an example:

You have one introductory paragraph, which is 3-5 sentences average. Other 3-5 sentences go to your conclusion. The body consists of three sections, 5-8 sentences each (1). So, here we have it: 21-34 sentences in an essay.

How many words are in an essay introduction?

Take 10-15% of the total length required. Thus, if you need to write a 1,000-word essay, your introduction will be 100-150 words.

For advanced research papers, where intros are longer than one paragraph, stick to 100-150 words per paragraph average. Such texts are usually above 3,000 words, so you’ll follow the 80/20 rule anyway.

Can I go under the suggested length?

It’s not advisable. Please do your best to meet the minimum word count given in the assignment. If the guidelines say “350-600 words,” write at least 350 words in an essay. Sometimes, a 10% deviation is acceptable, but don’t take this rule for granted. Most instructors won’t appreciate your 315-word paper if they ask you to write 350 words at least.

How to make your essay longer?

  • Add more examples and evidence to the body paragraphs. 
  • Explain and analyze every argument in detail. 
  • Mention counterarguments if applicable.

Can I make my essay longer?

Yes, you can exceed the word limit by 10% if allowed by your course instructor. For example, if you get an assignment of 500-700 words, it’s okay to submit a 770-word essay for a review.

Important! Always ask your instructor if the 10% rule is available in their course. And exceed the word count only if you have critical information to add.

Academic writing is all about rules and instructions. Essay length isn’t an exception:

Every college paper has a prescribed, approximate word count to follow. When asking, “How long is an essay?” remember the answer will depend on several factors:

  • Academic level. (Middle and high school students write short essays. Undergraduates and graduates craft longer and more complex papers.)
  • Type and purpose. (Research-based essays are longer than reflective stories you write for college admission officers.)
  • Instructions you get from a teacher. (Check them: The supposed essay length is often there.)

How many words are in an essay? You can answer this question now.

References:

  • https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/academic_writing/paragraphs_and_paragraphing/paragraphing.html  
  • Essay samples
  • Essay writing
  • Writing tips

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Paragraphing (Length Consistency)

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Paragraphs are units of thought with one adequately developed idea. Listed here are some rules of thumb to use when paragraphing. As your writing improves, you'll be able to break these "rules" to meet your own needs. Until then, these suggestions can be helpful.

  • Put only one main idea per paragraph.
  • Aim for three to five or more sentences per paragraph.
  • Include on each page about two handwritten or three typed paragraphs.
  • Make your paragraphs proportional to your paper. Since paragraphs do less work in short papers, have short paragraphs for short papers and longer paragraphs for longer papers.
  • If you have a few very short paragraphs, think about whether they are really parts of a larger paragraph—and can be combined—or whether you can add details to support each point and thus make each into a more fully developed paragraph.

You can check on whether your paragraphs are balanced by looking at your paper.

Some balanced pages:

These images show text that is balanced on pages. The left image shows text that is left-justified. The right image shows text that is centered.

Paragraph Balance

Unbalanced pages with ideas not equally developed:

These images show text in unbalanced boxes to illustrate the need to balance paragraphs and sections in your paper.

Unbalanced Paragraphs

Use the following graphics as a tool to organize your paper with one main idea in each box. Use as many pages and boxes as needed.

These images contain line drawings of three boxes one on top of the other. The first box on the page contains the word introduction. The last box on the page contains the word conclusion.

Graphics to Help with Balance and Organization

How Long Is an Essay? The Ultimate Essay Length Guide

It’s safe to say that most students struggle with the word limit within an essay. Sometimes, it’s hard to find ideas for a text and meet the word requirement for every part of the paper. With so many factors influencing essay length, it’s easy to get confused.

The picture enumerates the factors influencing essay length.

Luckily, our custom-writing team has your back. In this article, our custom-writing experts will answer all your questions regarding essay length. We will also help you write papers with an ideal number of words!

📜 Is Essay Length Important?

📏 essay parts: recommended length.

  • 🤔 How to Make Essays Shorter or Longer
  • 📑 Essay Length & Formatting
  • ❓ Different Academic Levels FAQ
  • 📚 Essay Length: Different Types
  • ⭐ Other Aspects
  • 📝 Essay Examples

🔍 References

Often, the phrase “word limit” causes panic among students. After all, if an essay is too long or too short, your grade will be lowered. However, in reality, there’s nothing to worry about. When it comes to words, limitations are beneficial for both the students and the professors.

Let’s see what exactly it means.

Many people believe that the longer an essay is, the better. However, according to Frontiers, research shows that it’s a bias that couldn’t be further from the truth. A perfect-length paper is one that allows students to express their ideas and showcase their knowledge fully while keeping it clean and simple.

What Influences Essay Length

Various factors determine the length of an essay. Here are the most important ones:

Some themes may require more explanations and supporting ideas to prove a point or convey a message to the reader. 
For instance, if your topic is related to literature, you might need more words and descriptions to get the point across. Subjects such as science or management typically require shorter papers. 
Usually, the more advanced the students are, the more complex their papers get. For example, high school essays differ from ones for college and university in terms of length and presentation.
Students may be asked to write various types of essays—such as short, extended, narrative, or persuasive—throughout their careers. The essay’s type reflects in both its outline and length. 

Let’s start with the essentials. Usually, assignment length is given as a number of words rather than pages. Unless your supervisor or instructor mentions any specific limitations, it’s acceptable to be 10% below or above the word limit.

It’s also worth knowing the 80/20 rule . According to it, the body should constitute 80% of the text, while the intro and the conclusion take up the remaining 20%.

Keep reading to learn more about the recommended length of each essay part. The main numbers are shown in the table below:

3-5 sentences (50-80 words)
5-8 sentences (80-200 words)
3-5 paragraphs
3-5 sentences (50-80 words)

How Long Should an Introduction Be?

An introduction is the first section and the face of your essay. For that reason, it needs to be compelling and well-thought-out. Usually, it consists of 3 to 5 sentences or 50 to 80 words .

An introduction must have a hook, some background information, and a thesis statement. While the attention grabber and the thesis are usually brief, you may need 2 to 3 sentences for the background. To avoid going overboard, try to stay on topic and don’t add any filler.

How Long Is a Body Paragraph in an Essay?

The length of a body paragraph may vary. Sometimes, it can be limited to a single sentence. In other cases, it may take up a whole page. Usually, it’s recommended to have between 80 and 200 words (5-8 sentences) per body paragraph.

Since the paper’s body contains the most information, it’s necessary to explain and support your ideas properly. That’s why it’s no big deal if your body paragraphs go slightly over the word limit.

How Many Body Paragraphs Should Be in an Essay?

Like the word count, the number of paragraphs is determined by the type of paper and its topic. The minimum is 1. Generally, however, the body consists of 3-5 paragraphs , 1 for each argument.

To improve your paper’s structure, ensure that there are as many paragraphs as there are points in your thesis statement. Each one should have a purpose and support your arguments. If there’s any fluff, it’s better to get rid of it.

How Long Should a Conclusion Be?

Like the introduction, the conclusion consists of 50-80 words . It’s essential to keep it simple and only mention the central ideas. A weak concluding sentence may affect the reader’s understanding of the topic and spoil the overall impression of your paper.

🤔 How to Make Essays Shorter or Longer: Best Tips

Undoubtedly the essay’s content is more important than the number of words you use. But there are times when students go more than 10-15% below or over the limit. Is there a solution to this problem?

Yes, there is! In this section, we will share the most useful tips to help you stay on point with your paper’s word count.

How to Make Essays Longer

Since having enough words is essential for a good grade, we’ve collected the best tips that can help you lengthen your essay without teachers noticing:

  • Use relevant quotations.  You don’t need to litter your essay with citations, but using them whenever appropriate is a great idea. For instance, if you’re working on a book analysis, referencing a couple of direct quotes from the source text will make your essay more credible and increase the word count.
Original Revision
In Indian culture, hair symbolizes self-respect, a sense of belonging, and pride. In Indian culture, hair symbolized self-respect, a sense of belonging, and pride: ”Our mothers had taught us that only unskilled warriors who were captured had their hair shingled by the enemy.”
  • Give examples.  Go through the claims in your paper and provide additional evidence where possible. It will make your essay longer and more informative.
Original Revision
Directors considered the dark side of speed, driving, mobility, and all the other icons associated with the road. Directors considered the dark side of speed, driving, mobility, and all the other icons associated with the road. Some well-known examples are movies such as (1969), (1963), and (1963-64).
  • Use transitional expressions.  Adding transition words and phrases is a natural way of increasing the number of words. It will also improve your essay’s readability. 
Original Revision
The book’s author believes this is just a general misconception. However, the book’s author believes this is just a general misconception.
  • Add more references.  Providing references is always a good idea when writing a formal essay. That way, you will increase the number of words and make your paper more credible.
Original Revision
It is believed that writing, reading, or reciting poetry positively affects our psychological well-being. According to another article published in the  in 2014, the practice of writing, reading, or reciting poetry positively affects our psychological well-being.
  • Work on your descriptions.  If you struggle to develop new ideas, go over what you’ve already written and consider adding some descriptive words. It’s a great idea for creative essays to include more imagery. 
Original Revision
They believe that language is more than a communication tool and should be introduced in a playful way for most effectiveness. They believe that language is more than a simple day-to-day communication tool and that it should be introduced in a pleasurable and playful way for the most effectiveness.

How to Shorten an Essay

Another struggle of academic writing is cutting down the number of words in your essay to meet a set limit. We are here to tell you that it’s not that hard. Writing straightforwardly and keeping your sentences short is a key to concise content. Here are several strategies you may use to tighten a lengthy essay:

  • Choose the active voice.  It takes up less space than passive voice. Using it also makes your writing more professional and compelling.
Original Revision
The research was conducted by  .  conducted the research. 
  • Remove needless transitions.  Transitions can indeed maintain the flow of the paper. But some transitional phrases can be easily removed.
Original Revision
Furthermore, it has been discovered that children who play violin have stronger visual and verbal pattern abilities. Discoveries show that children who play violin have stronger visual and verbal pattern abilities.
  • Get rid of unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.  Some students tend to overuse adjectives and adverbs. It adds wordiness to their writing.
Original Revision
The whole article focuses on the mechanics of easily managing fear itself. The article focuses on the mechanics of managing fear itself. 
  • Avoid running starts.  Some students like to start their sentences with long phrases like: “there are,” “it is believed,” or “the fact that.” Getting rid of them makes texts much more concise.
Original Revision
The fact that the dialogue contains some Shakespearean elements emphasizes the protagonist’s longing for his lover.  Shakespearean elements in the dialogue emphasize the protagonist’s longing for his lover. 
  • Delete “that.”  In most cases, the word “that” can often be easily removed from texts.
Original Revision
The idea that was expressed in the novel translated well into the live-action movie. The idea expressed in the book translated well into the live-action movie.

Another cool trick is to use our summarizing tool as essay shortener. Try it out!

📑 How Long Is an Essay Depending on Formatting?

As we mentioned earlier, the essay’s length is usually limited by the number of words. But sometimes, a teacher may ask you to write a specific number of pages. This is trickier because the amount of text you can place on the page depends on the formatting. By using the font size and spacing properly, it’s possible to make the paper visually longer or shorter. Let’s discuss it in more detail.

The picture describes how formatting affects essay length.

Essay Spacing: How Does It Affect the Length?

  • Adjusting the spacing between lines.  Try to make the changes as slight as possible. For instance, if you were asked to double-space the paper, use 2.1 or 2.2 spacing instead. Another option is to slightly extend spaces between paragraphs.
  • Extending the margin size.  You can increase the right and bottom margins by a quarter to make very subtle changes in length. For example, if the margins are 1 inch , you can set them at 1.25 inches instead. 
  • Increasing the spacing between characters.  It is less noticeable than the line spacing. Still, try not to overdo it and keep the numbers between 1.2 and 1.5 . 
  • Adjusting the footer.  Add a footer with page numbers to stretch the bottom margin even further.
  • Lengthening the header.  You can extend your header by adding your name, e-mail address, or other relevant information. Another option is double-spacing it.

Length of an Essay: Font and Size

  • Using the right type of font.  If your instructor didn’t specify which font you should use, go for the bigger ones. We suggest Arial, Bangla Sangam MN, Cambria, or Quicksand. They will make your text look longer without being too on the nose.  
  • Using a bigger font size.  This is another technique that can come in handy. However, be careful and don’t increase your font by more than 0.1-0.5 pt.  
  • Increasing the size of periods and commas.   This is one of the less noticeable tricks you can use. For instance, if your paper’s font is 12 pt. , increase it to 14 pt. only for punctuation marks. Italicizing periods and commas will also add several lines of length to your essay. 

What to Do if There Are No Length Guidelines

Sometimes a teacher sets no word limit for a written work. What to do in that case? Well, first, you can ask your professor to confirm if they have simply forgotten to mention it. But if that’s not the case, here are a couple of helpful solutions:

  • Think of the paragraph number.  Sometimes, you may be given the number of paragraphs instead of words. In that case, you can decide on the number of words depending on how many paragraphs you have. 
  • Think about the topic’s complexity.  The length of your paper is also directly dependent on the theme. If the topic is simple, 4-5 paragraphs will be enough. A more complex issue may require an in-depth explanation, so your essay can be 6-8 paragraphs long.

❓ Essay Length for Different Academic Levels FAQ

The length of the elementary school essay is usually short. Usually, a paper needs to have around 3-5 paragraphs, with 4-5 sentences per paragraph. Primary school essays can be 1-2 paragraphs long.

The word limit for a middle school essay is usually between 300 to 1000 words. The most common essay length is 500 words, which is about 5 paragraphs. However, it may differ from school to school.

The length of the high school essay may differ depending on the school and the complexity of the task itself. Usually, however, a paper can be between 300 to 1000 words long.

The length of the undergraduate college essay often falls within the range of 1500 to 2100 words. It translates into roughly 5-7 pages. 5 pages is the most common essay length at this level.

When it comes to the graduate school admission essay, the word limit is usually between 500 and 1000 words. It’s possible to go slightly over or below the set limit; however, it’s best to stick to the requirements as close as possible.

📚 How Long Should an Essay Be: Different Types

Now, let’s talk about different types of essays. How long should they be? Keep reading to learn about the length of college essays, short and extended ones, scholarship essays, and research papers.

How Long Is a College Essay?

When it comes to a college essay, it’s more important to stick to the word limit than with any other paper. Some teachers may refuse to read it unless it meets all the requirements.

The shortest limit for a college essay is about 250 words which is the shortest length of a Common App personal statement. It’s also rare to see a good college essay with over 650 words . So, an average piece usually has between 150 and 650 words ; you can go over or below the limit by 50.

How Long Is a Paragraph in College Essays?

A college essay usually consists of 4-5 paragraphs . One paragraph takes about 1/3 of the page, which is roughly 5 sentences . Each sentence corresponds with one of the following components:

  • Topic sentence.
  • Explanation.
  • Transitions.

College Essay Length Requirements: Top 5 Schools

To understand the requirements for a college application essay even better, take a look at the table below. It showcases the top 5 schools and their length criteria for personal statements. Keep it in mind when writing your college essay:

HBS essay length 900-word limit
UC essay length 350-word limit
Chicago Booth essay length 300-word limit
UChicago essay length 650 suggested word limit
AMCAS essay length 5300 characters (spaces included)

How Long Is a Short Essay?

A short essay is usually 500 words long. Using 12pt Times New Roman font with standard margins and double spacing should result in about 2 pages of text.

Extended Essay Length

An extended essay is different from a short or a standard one. It requires extensive research and thorough explanation. That’s why the upper limit for this kind of essay is 4000 words . In this case, a typical essay length is 3500 words or 18 paragraphs .

Scholarship Essay Length

Generally, scholarship papers have a limit of 500 words , which is 1 page in length. Most scholarship programs provide additional requirements that indicate the minimum number of words or pages. If there are no set limitations, you can stick to the limit.

How Long Is a Research Paper?

Typically, a research paper is between 4000 and 6000 words long. Sometimes, there are shorter papers, which have around 2000 words, or in-depth ones with over 10000 words.

⭐ Other Aspects of Essay Length

When it comes to essay length, many different aspects come into play. Here, we’ve gathered all the essential information regarding an essay’s number of pages, paragraphs, words, and references.

How Many Paragraphs Are in an Essay?

Sometimes, it is more convenient to count paragraphs rather than words. Let’s now figure out how many paragraphs are in essays of different lengths. You may also check out the examples to see what such an essay looks like:

WordsParagraphs Example
250-word essay length 4
300-word essay length 4-5
500-word essay length 6 Water Cooling Tower Construction Site’s Problems
600-word essay length 7
800-word essay length 8-9
1000-word essay length 10
2000-word essay length 18-19

How to Count Paragraphs in an Essay Based on Word Count

You can also count the number of body paragraphs for your essay using the formula below:

Number of body paragraphs (average) = (TWC – TWC*0.16)/100

  • TWC – total word count
  • 0.16 – an average percentage of total word count for introduction and conclusion
  • 100 – an average number of words per paragraph

How Many Pages Are in an Essay?

The number of pages in your essay may vary from subject to subject. But it’s still possible to determine the number of pages based on word count. Check out the numbers below to see the conversions with bonus examples:

Pages (Double-spaced) Example
How many pages is a 200-word essay? 1
How many pages is a 250-word essay? 1
How many pages is a 300-word essay? 1 The Major Causes of the Great Depression
How many pages is a 400-word essay? 1,5
How many pages is a 500-word essay? 2
How many pages is a 600-word essay? 2 Single-Parent Families: Source Analysis
How many pages is a 700-word essay? 2,5 CytoGainer Overview: Purpose and Results
How many pages is a 750-word essay? 3 Modeling Sustainable Food Systems
How many pages is a 800-word essay? 3
How many pages is a 900-word essay? 3,5
How many pages is a 1000-word essay? 4
How many pages is a 1500-word essay? 6
How many pages is a 2000-word essay? 8 Advocacy Campaign: the Problem of Childhood Obesity

You can also use a specialized calculator such as Word Counter to determine a number of pages in your essay.

What Does an Essay Look Like when Typed?

You might be wondering: what do essays of different lengths look like when typed? Well, here’s the table where you can find out the metrics for single- and double-spaced papers.

Single-spaced Double-spaced Example
What does a 200-word essay look like? 0,5 pages 1 page How Hate Took Hold of Him: Parrish Reflection
What does a 250-word essay look like? 0,5 pages 1 page What Social Factors Prevent Adolescents to Acquire Appropriate Education in Their Later Life
What does a 300-word essay look like? 0,5 pages 1 page “Racial Inequality, at College and in the Workplace” by Johnson
What does a 500-word essay look like? 1 page 2 pages
What does a 600-word essay look like? 1 page 2 pages “8 Million Have Slipped Into Poverty Since May as Federal Aid Has Dried Up” by Jason DeParle 
What does a 750-word essay look like? 1,5 pages 3 pages Methods for Avoiding Relapse
What does a 1000-word essay look like? 2 pages 4 pages Heroin Distribution and Its Use Within the United States
What does a 2000-word essay look like? 4 pages 8 pages

How Many Pages Are in a Handwritten Essay?

In case you need to turn in a handwritten paper, you should check out the table below.

How many pages is 150 words handwritten? 0,5
How many pages is 200 words handwritten? 1
How many pages is 250 words handwritten? 1
How many pages is 300 words handwritten? 1,25
How many pages is 350 words handwritten? 1,5
How many pages is 400 words handwritten? 1,5-2
How many pages is 500 words handwritten? 2
How many pages is 600 words handwritten? 2
How many pages is 700 words handwritten? 2,5
How many pages is 800 words handwritten? 3
How many pages is 1000 words handwritten? 4

Counting Words in a Handwritten Essay

If you don’t have enough time to count the words in your handwritten essay one by one, here’s what you can do:

  • Count how many words there are in one line. Take the first and last lines and a line in the middle of a page. Let’s say there are 15, 14, and 15 words in them. Then, the average number of words per line is 15.
  • Next, count how many lines there are on one page. Let’s say there are 17 lines on a page.
  • Take the number of words per line and multiply it by the number of lines per page. In our case, we multiply 15 by 17. So, there are 255 words per page on average.
  • Finally, multiply the number of words per page by the number of pages. If your essay has 3 pages, it is approximately 765 words long.

How Long Does it Take to Write an Essay?

It is crucial to know how long writing will take you, especially if you are working on an exam essay or just short on time. Note that you need to consider the time for typing and researching necessary to complete a piece. Research time may vary. Usually, it’s 1-2 hours for 200-250 words .

The picture shows the fact about the average speed of writing.

Below, we’ve gathered the average writing time for average and slower writing speed:

Time (Slow) Time (Average)
How long does it take to write 250 words? 50 min 6.3 min
How long does it take to write 300 words? 60 min 7.5 min
How long does it take to write 500 words? 100 min 12.5 min
How long does it take to write 750 words? 150 min 18.8 min
How long does it take to write 800 words? 160 min 20 min
How long does it take to write 1000 words? 200 min 25 min
How long does it take to write 1200 words? 240 min 30 min
How long does it take to write 1500 words? 300 min 37.5 min
How long does it take to write a 2000-word essay? 400 min 50 min

And here are the results in pages:

Time (Slow) Time (Average)
How long does it take to write a 2-page paper? 200 min 25 min
How long does it take to write a 3-page paper? 300 min 37.5 min
How long does it take to write a 4-page paper? 400 min 50 min
How long does it take to write a 5-page paper? 500 min 62.5 min
How long does it take to write a 6-page paper? 600 min 75 min
How long does it take to write a 7-page paper? 700 min 87.5 min

How Many References Does an Essay Need?

Another essential part of any composition is the reference list. Different academic levels require different references. You’ll find out how many of them should be in your paper in the table below!

School College Bachelor Master Ph.D.
How many references in a 200-word essay 2 3 4 5 6
How many references for a 500-word essay 4 6 8 10 12
How many references for a 1000-word essay 8 12 16 20 24
How many references for a 1200-word essay 10 15 20 25 30
How many references in a 1500-word essay 12 18 24 30 36
How many references for a 2000-word essay 16 24 32 40 48
How many references for a 4000-word essay 32 48 64 80 96
How many references for a 5000-word essay 40 60 80 100 120

📝 Essay Examples: Different Length

Finally, we’ve gathered some excellent sample essays of different lengths. Make sure to check them out!

200-word essay example
300-word essay example Modifications of the Nomi Move
400-word essay example
500-word essay example
600-word essay example
700-word essay example Ethics, CSR, and Ignatian Values
800-word essay example
900-word essay example
1000-word essay example
1500-word essay example
2000-word essay example Research Critique: The Importance of Relationships in Mental Care
3000-word essay example
4000-word essay example

We also recommend you check out our free essay samples sorted by pages:

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Now you know all about essay length, word limits, and ways to lengthen or shorten your text. If you know other interesting tricks, make sure to share them in a comment! Good luck with your writing assignments!

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

This handout will help you understand how paragraphs are formed, how to develop stronger paragraphs, and how to completely and clearly express your ideas.

What is a paragraph?

Paragraphs are the building blocks of papers. Many students define paragraphs in terms of length: a paragraph is a group of at least five sentences, a paragraph is half a page long, etc. In reality, though, the unity and coherence of ideas among sentences is what constitutes a paragraph. A paragraph is defined as “a group of sentences or a single sentence that forms a unit” (Lunsford and Connors 116). Length and appearance do not determine whether a section in a paper is a paragraph. For instance, in some styles of writing, particularly journalistic styles, a paragraph can be just one sentence long. Ultimately, a paragraph is a sentence or group of sentences that support one main idea. In this handout, we will refer to this as the “controlling idea,” because it controls what happens in the rest of the paragraph.

How do I decide what to put in a paragraph?

Before you can begin to determine what the composition of a particular paragraph will be, you must first decide on an argument and a working thesis statement for your paper. What is the most important idea that you are trying to convey to your reader? The information in each paragraph must be related to that idea. In other words, your paragraphs should remind your reader that there is a recurrent relationship between your thesis and the information in each paragraph. A working thesis functions like a seed from which your paper, and your ideas, will grow. The whole process is an organic one—a natural progression from a seed to a full-blown paper where there are direct, familial relationships between all of the ideas in the paper.

The decision about what to put into your paragraphs begins with the germination of a seed of ideas; this “germination process” is better known as brainstorming . There are many techniques for brainstorming; whichever one you choose, this stage of paragraph development cannot be skipped. Building paragraphs can be like building a skyscraper: there must be a well-planned foundation that supports what you are building. Any cracks, inconsistencies, or other corruptions of the foundation can cause your whole paper to crumble.

So, let’s suppose that you have done some brainstorming to develop your thesis. What else should you keep in mind as you begin to create paragraphs? Every paragraph in a paper should be :

  • Unified : All of the sentences in a single paragraph should be related to a single controlling idea (often expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph).
  • Clearly related to the thesis : The sentences should all refer to the central idea, or thesis, of the paper (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Coherent : The sentences should be arranged in a logical manner and should follow a definite plan for development (Rosen and Behrens 119).
  • Well-developed : Every idea discussed in the paragraph should be adequately explained and supported through evidence and details that work together to explain the paragraph’s controlling idea (Rosen and Behrens 119).

How do I organize a paragraph?

There are many different ways to organize a paragraph. The organization you choose will depend on the controlling idea of the paragraph. Below are a few possibilities for organization, with links to brief examples:

  • Narration : Tell a story. Go chronologically, from start to finish. ( See an example. )
  • Description : Provide specific details about what something looks, smells, tastes, sounds, or feels like. Organize spatially, in order of appearance, or by topic. ( See an example. )
  • Process : Explain how something works, step by step. Perhaps follow a sequence—first, second, third. ( See an example. )
  • Classification : Separate into groups or explain the various parts of a topic. ( See an example. )
  • Illustration : Give examples and explain how those examples support your point. (See an example in the 5-step process below.)

Illustration paragraph: a 5-step example

From the list above, let’s choose “illustration” as our rhetorical purpose. We’ll walk through a 5-step process for building a paragraph that illustrates a point in an argument. For each step there is an explanation and example. Our example paragraph will be about human misconceptions of piranhas.

Step 1. Decide on a controlling idea and create a topic sentence

Paragraph development begins with the formulation of the controlling idea. This idea directs the paragraph’s development. Often, the controlling idea of a paragraph will appear in the form of a topic sentence. In some cases, you may need more than one sentence to express a paragraph’s controlling idea.

Controlling idea and topic sentence — Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans.

Step 2. Elaborate on the controlling idea

Paragraph development continues with an elaboration on the controlling idea, perhaps with an explanation, implication, or statement about significance. Our example offers a possible explanation for the pervasiveness of the myth.

Elaboration — This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media.

Step 3. Give an example (or multiple examples)

Paragraph development progresses with an example (or more) that illustrates the claims made in the previous sentences.

Example — For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman.

Step 4. Explain the example(s)

The next movement in paragraph development is an explanation of each example and its relevance to the topic sentence. The explanation should demonstrate the value of the example as evidence to support the major claim, or focus, in your paragraph.

Continue the pattern of giving examples and explaining them until all points/examples that the writer deems necessary have been made and explained. NONE of your examples should be left unexplained. You might be able to explain the relationship between the example and the topic sentence in the same sentence which introduced the example. More often, however, you will need to explain that relationship in a separate sentence.

Explanation for example — Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear.

Notice that the example and explanation steps of this 5-step process (steps 3 and 4) can be repeated as needed. The idea is that you continue to use this pattern until you have completely developed the main idea of the paragraph.

Step 5. Complete the paragraph’s idea or transition into the next paragraph

The final movement in paragraph development involves tying up the loose ends of the paragraph. At this point, you can remind your reader about the relevance of the information to the larger paper, or you can make a concluding point for this example. You might, however, simply transition to the next paragraph.

Sentences for completing a paragraph — While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Finished paragraph

Despite the fact that piranhas are relatively harmless, many people continue to believe the pervasive myth that piranhas are dangerous to humans. This impression of piranhas is exacerbated by their mischaracterization in popular media. For example, the promotional poster for the 1978 horror film Piranha features an oversized piranha poised to bite the leg of an unsuspecting woman. Such a terrifying representation easily captures the imagination and promotes unnecessary fear. While the trope of the man-eating piranhas lends excitement to the adventure stories, it bears little resemblance to the real-life piranha. By paying more attention to fact than fiction, humans may finally be able to let go of this inaccurate belief.

Troubleshooting paragraphs

Problem: the paragraph has no topic sentence.

Imagine each paragraph as a sandwich. The real content of the sandwich—the meat or other filling—is in the middle. It includes all the evidence you need to make the point. But it gets kind of messy to eat a sandwich without any bread. Your readers don’t know what to do with all the evidence you’ve given them. So, the top slice of bread (the first sentence of the paragraph) explains the topic (or controlling idea) of the paragraph. And, the bottom slice (the last sentence of the paragraph) tells the reader how the paragraph relates to the broader argument. In the original and revised paragraphs below, notice how a topic sentence expressing the controlling idea tells the reader the point of all the evidence.

Original paragraph

Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Revised paragraph

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Once you have mastered the use of topic sentences, you may decide that the topic sentence for a particular paragraph really shouldn’t be the first sentence of the paragraph. This is fine—the topic sentence can actually go at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph; what’s important is that it is in there somewhere so that readers know what the main idea of the paragraph is and how it relates back to the thesis of your paper. Suppose that we wanted to start the piranha paragraph with a transition sentence—something that reminds the reader of what happened in the previous paragraph—rather than with the topic sentence. Let’s suppose that the previous paragraph was about all kinds of animals that people are afraid of, like sharks, snakes, and spiders. Our paragraph might look like this (the topic sentence is bold):

Like sharks, snakes, and spiders, piranhas are widely feared. Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless . Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. If the fish are well-fed, they won’t bite humans.

Problem: the paragraph has more than one controlling idea

If a paragraph has more than one main idea, consider eliminating sentences that relate to the second idea, or split the paragraph into two or more paragraphs, each with only one main idea. Watch our short video on reverse outlining to learn a quick way to test whether your paragraphs are unified. In the following paragraph, the final two sentences branch off into a different topic; so, the revised paragraph eliminates them and concludes with a sentence that reminds the reader of the paragraph’s main idea.

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, for the most part, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ first instinct is to flee, not attack. Their fear of humans makes sense. Far more piranhas are eaten by people than people are eaten by piranhas. A number of South American groups eat piranhas. They fry or grill the fish and then serve them with coconut milk or tucupi, a sauce made from fermented manioc juices.

Problem: transitions are needed within the paragraph

You are probably familiar with the idea that transitions may be needed between paragraphs or sections in a paper (see our handout on transitions ). Sometimes they are also helpful within the body of a single paragraph. Within a paragraph, transitions are often single words or short phrases that help to establish relationships between ideas and to create a logical progression of those ideas in a paragraph. This is especially likely to be true within paragraphs that discuss multiple examples. Let’s take a look at a version of our piranha paragraph that uses transitions to orient the reader:

Although most people consider piranhas to be quite dangerous, they are, except in two main situations, entirely harmless. Piranhas rarely feed on large animals; they eat smaller fish and aquatic plants. When confronted with humans, piranhas’ instinct is to flee, not attack. But there are two situations in which a piranha bite is likely. The first is when a frightened piranha is lifted out of the water—for example, if it has been caught in a fishing net. The second is when the water level in pools where piranhas are living falls too low. A large number of fish may be trapped in a single pool, and if they are hungry, they may attack anything that enters the water.

In this example, you can see how the phrases “the first” and “the second” help the reader follow the organization of the ideas in the paragraph.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Lunsford, Andrea. 2008. The St. Martin’s Handbook: Annotated Instructor’s Edition , 6th ed. New York: St. Martin’s.

Rosen, Leonard J., and Laurence Behrens. 2003. The Allyn & Bacon Handbook , 5th ed. New York: Longman.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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Your chance of acceptance, your chancing factors, extracurriculars, how many paragraphs should a college essay be.

I'm working on my college essay and I'm not sure how long it should be. Is there an ideal number of paragraphs for a college essay, or does it just depend on the content and flow of the essay? Any guidance would be much appreciated!

Hey there! It's great that you're working on your college essay. The ideal length for a college essay will depend on the specific essay prompt and the word limit given by the colleges you're applying to. Generally, most college essays fall in the range of 250-650 words.

As for the number of paragraphs, it's more about effectively organizing your thoughts and ideas rather than sticking to a specific number. For instance, you might have a compelling 5-paragraph essay or an engaging 8-paragraph essay. The key is to maintain a strong narrative and flow throughout the essay.

My child faced a similar dilemma when they were applying, and what worked for them was to focus on the content, storytelling, and coherence of the essay rather than the specific number of paragraphs. Remember, it's your unique story and how you present it that matters most. Good luck!

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When You Write

Breaking Down Essays: How Many Paragraphs Should You Have?

Writing an essay and figuring out the basic structure of an essay is one of the biggest challenges faced by students. But have no fear! Today we’re here to tackle one particularly tricky aspect of writing essays: how many paragraphs should be included?

We’ll look at some rules and guidelines for determining when it’s time to move on to a new paragraph – so you can easily craft your next great essay with confidence.

In this article, I’ll take you through the process step-by-step, offering up examples and strategies that will help readers understand what they need to know in order to write dynamic, engaging essays.

Perfect for anyone looking for ways to break free from tired formulae and express their story ideas in innovative ways.

What Is An Essay?

Essays are a common form of writing used in education and work. They can range from persuasive to argumentative, but all require an organized structure with clear thesis statement , topic sentences and supporting evidence. Writing an essay is like creating a piece of art: you have to know the rules before you break them.

When it comes to understanding the basic structure of an essay, there are typically three primary elements: introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion.

The introduction should provide readers with background information about the subject matter or arguments that will be discussed throughout the essay. It also lays out your main point (thesis statement) for readers so they have an understanding of what is coming next.

Body paragraphs usually follow the introduction, as this is where writers present their arguments and support their points with evidence. Each paragraph serves its own purpose; each one introducing one idea at a time until the writer has made his/her case through multiple topics. To make sure this happens effectively, each paragraph must start with a strong focus sentence (topic sentence) which introduces what that particular section will discuss further on.

From here, we move on to crafting our conclusion – wrapping up all ideas presented within our body paragraphs while reiterating our initial thesis statement and providing some final thoughts on the overall subject matter at hand.

This part should not simply repeat what was previously said but rather tie everything together into something meaningful for readers to take away from our essay’s message.

Understanding The Basic Structure Of An Essay

Ah, the art of essay writing. It’s a crafty exercise that can induce feelings of dread and extreme boredom in many high schoolers—not to mention college students. But, like all arts, it has its place in education and there are various ways to create an effective piece of work.

To understand how to write an essay effectively, you must first learn about its basic structure: paragraphs. Paragraphs are essential components of essays; they provide organization for your thoughts and ideas and should be used throughout the entire paper. Generally speaking, each paragraph should contain one main idea which is then supplemented by evidence from outside sources or personal examples. The length of these paragraphs will vary depending on whether you’re writing a short article or longer research paper, but typically five to six sentences work best for most formats.

To get started on drafting your masterpiece, decide what type of essay you’re going to write (persuasive argumentative etc.) and determine the recommended number of paragraphs per format.

After this step is complete, start brainstorming topics related to the essay prompt and begin jotting down notes as well as any relevant quotes or data points that could support your arguments further down the line.

Once these tasks are accomplished, it’s time to dive into actually constructing those individual paragraphs!

Types Of Essays And Recommended Paragraph Structure

When it comes to essays, there are a variety of types and structures. The number of paragraphs can vary depending on the type of essay being written.

The most common format is the five-paragraph essay:

  • an introduction,
  • three body paragraphs, and
  • a conclusion.

Each paragraph should have around six sentences that are focused on one main idea or point. An argumentative or persuasive essay usually follows this structure as well, but may contain more than five paragraphs if necessary for evidence support.

A cause-and-effect essay typically has two parts;

  • an introduction followed by
  • either two or four body paragraphs

in which causes and effects are discussed respectively. A research paper contains the same elements as other essays but also includes citations from sources used to back up claims made throughout the document. Personal essays often don’t conform to any specific structure because they focus on feelings rather than facts; however, some writers prefer organizing them into three sections with three separate points per section.

No matter what type of essay you’re writing, it’s important to recognize how many paragraphs each requires so your work meets expectations and flows properly between ideas!

Factors Influencing The Number Of Paragraphs In An Essay

As the old adage goes, “form follows function.”

The same is true for essays: how many paragraphs an essay contains depends on its purpose and complexity of the topic.

When writing an essay, it’s important to consider the length of the assignment, time available to complete the task, and resources at hand.

An essay typically consists of three parts: introduction, body containing three body paragraphs, and conclusion.

Depending on the length of the essay and other factors such as difficulty level or argumentative depth, one may need more than three body paragraphs to fully explain their stance on a given subject matter.

The introduction should include information that draws readers in while also setting up what will be discussed in main points throughout your essay.

After this comes your three body paragraphs where you can expand upon each point made by providing evidence or examples from reliable sources.

Finally, conclude with a clear summary of all key topics that have been addressed in your paper without introducing any new ideas not previously mentioned.

When editing and proofreading your work after completion, look out for ways to improve paragraphing based on readability considerations; ensure your paragraph transitions are logical so readers can follow along easily; check if there is enough text within each body paragraph relative to other sections; identify redundancies or irrelevant information that could be eliminated; and finally re-read sentences to make sure they align with the thesis statement set forth in the introduction section.

With these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way towards crafting impressive essays!

Paragraphing Tips For Editing And Proofreading

When editing and proofreading an essay, it’s important to make sure the paragraphs are properly structured. Many people don’t realize that the number of paragraphs included in an essay can make a huge difference. 

Generally, essays should have between three and seven paragraphs, depending on the length of the essay. For shorter essays, three paragraphs is usually enough, while for longer ones, seven is the maximum.

In addition, each paragraph should be focused on a particular idea or topic and should have a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Proofreading

When proofreading, it’s also important to pay attention to the length of each paragraph. Paragraphs should be long enough to contain a full thought or idea, but not so long that they become hard to follow.

As a rule of thumb, each paragraph should be around five sentences. If a paragraph is too short, it might not contain enough information. If it’s too long, the point of the paragraph might get lost. It’s also important to make sure that each paragraph logically flows into the next, so the reader can understand the essay’s overall argument. 

Having someone else read over your work can be useful because they might spot something you didn’t notice before-but remember to take their advice on board if it’s valid!

In conclusion, the number of paragraphs in an essay can vary depending on its purpose and type.

However, it’s important to ensure that each paragraph is cohesive and serves a clear purpose within your overall argument.

To make sure each paragraph flows naturally into the next, I recommend editing and proofreading for any errors or awkward phrasing.

Recommended Reading...

From summary to insight: a guide to writing commentary essays with depth, how to become a ghostwriter, how to become a fortune cookie writer, what is technical writing.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

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Will Hunter Biden Go to Jail? Here’s What His Sentence Could Look Like

The president’s son is a first-time offender who was not accused of using the weapon in another crime.

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  • June 11, 2024

When the judge presiding over Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial sentences him, she will have to weigh a number of unusual factors specific to his case.

Mr. Biden was convicted on Tuesday of three violations that rarely go to trial — all stemming from his failure to disclose his use of illegal drugs when he bought a gun in 2018. The charges included illegally possessing a firearm, giving a false statement in buying it, and providing that false statement to a licensed gun dealer responsible for making sure guns are sold only to properly qualified customers.

According to the most recent manual published by the United States Sentencing Commission, which sets recommended sentencing guidelines, someone in Mr. Biden’s position would typically face 15 to 21 months’ imprisonment for offenses related to the unlawful receipt, possession, or transportation of firearms .

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Rethinking English essay scores

by Kobe University

student writing

To get high scores on essay writing tests, learners of English as a foreign language need to focus on good arguments more than on complex grammar. The Kobe University finding challenges conventional approaches to test preparation and scoring rubrics.

Writing essays is a well-established tool for monitoring progress in learning English as a foreign language , as it provides a snapshot of a student's mastery of grammar and vocabulary. Especially in Japan, where English language tests are often required for university admission and students closely follow advice on how to achieve high scores on these tests, a "good essay " is often seen as one that demonstrates a high level of grammatical complexity. But is this actually reflected in test scores ?

Kobe University linguist Yasuda Sachiko says, "Based on my experience of teaching academic writing to students at various levels in Japan, I believe that linguistically complex texts do not always result in better writing."

She therefore decided to conduct an experiment with over 100 Japanese high school students. Yasuda had them write a short essay on a given topic and looked at the relationship between the linguistic complexity of the texts and the writers' ability to present complex arguments, and how these two related to how the texts were graded according to official rubrics.

She adds, "This study is the first to focus on the relationship between features of linguistic complexity and features of meaning complexity; no one else in the relevant fields has looked at the relationship between these two."

The results, published in the journal Assessing Writing , confirmed her suspicions. She found that high-scoring essays shared features related more to the ability to express complex meaning, such as lexical diversity, noun modification, and soundness and number of arguments, than to structural complexity.

"Interestingly, low scoring essays showed the highest level of complexity in finite adverbial dependent clauses," the linguist writes in her paper. Emphasizing this point, the ability to express complex meaning was strongly correlated only with using diverse expressions and the ability to modify their meaning, but not with grammatical features.

Yasuda concludes, "Simply having complex sentence structures does not necessarily lead to a better essay."

The findings have implications for how essay writing tests are scored. The Kobe University researcher explains, "Current rubrics for writing questions on language tests instruct test-takers to 'use complex grammar appropriately' or 'a variety of complex structures."

However, since sentence complexity does not significantly affect overall essay quality, it may be more appropriate to use terms such as 'contextually appropriate grammar' or 'genre-appropriate grammar.'

Thus arguing that the ability to express one's opinion in varied and complex ways is a marker of students' writing ability, she advocates that this characteristic should be more represented both in the way tests are scored and how feedback is provided to students.

This so-called washback effect of test scoring rubrics on the way language is taught is at the heart of what drives Yasuda.

She says, "I am committed to using the results of this study for practical applications, such as refining assessment criteria for evaluating students' writing, developing tasks and materials to improve their writing skills, and identifying the key knowledge that teachers need to help students become better writers.

"The ability to write in English has become increasingly important in the 21st century, as it is a crucial medium that allows us to connect with others around the world."

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  • How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

Published on July 21, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 5, 2023.

How to Write Topic Sentences

Every paragraph in your paper needs a topic sentence . The topic sentence expresses what the paragraph is about. It should include two key things:

  • The  topic of the paragraph
  • The central point of the paragraph.

After the topic sentence, you expand on the point zwith evidence and examples.

To build a well-structured argument, you can also use your topic sentences to transition smoothly between paragraphs and show the connections between your points.

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Table of contents

Writing strong topic sentences, topic sentences as transitions between paragraphs, topic sentences that introduce more than one paragraph, where does the topic sentence go, frequently asked questions about topic sentences.

Topic sentences aren’t the first or the last thing you write—you’ll develop them throughout the writing process. To make sure every topic sentence and paragraph serves your argument, follow these steps.

Step 1: Write a thesis statement

The first step to developing your topic sentences is to make sure you have a strong thesis statement . The thesis statement sums up the purpose and argument of the whole paper.

Thesis statement example

Food is an increasingly urgent environmental issue, and to reduce humans’ impact on the planet, it is necessary to change global patterns of food production and consumption.

Step 2: Make an essay outline and draft topic sentences

Next, you should make an outline of your essay’s structure , planning what you want to say in each paragraph and what evidence you’ll use.

At this stage, you can draft a topic sentence that sums up the main point you want to make in each paragraph. The topic sentences should be more specific than the thesis statement, but always clearly related to it.

Topic sentence example

Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has a significant environmental impact .

Step 3: Expand with evidence

The rest of the paragraph should flow logically from the topic sentence, expanding on the point with evidence, examples, or argumentation. This helps keep your paragraphs focused: everything you write should relate to the central idea expressed in the topic sentence.

In our example, you might mention specific research studies and statistics that support your point about the overall impact of the meat industry.

Step 4: Refine your topic sentences

Topic sentences usually start out as simple statements. But it’s important to revise them as you write, making sure they match the content of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence is specific enough to give a clear sense of what to expect from the paragraph, but general enough that it doesn’t give everything away. You can think of it like a signpost: it should tell the reader which direction your argument is going in.

To make your writing stronger and ensure the connections between your paragraphs are clear and logical, you can also use topic sentences to create smooth transitions. To improve sentence flow even more, you can also utilize the paraphrase tool .

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As you write each topic sentence, ask yourself: how does this point relate to what you wrote in the preceding paragraph? It’s often helpful to use transition words in your topic sentences to show the connections between your ideas.

Emphasize and expand

If the paragraph goes into more detail or gives another example to make the same point, the topic sentence can use words that imply emphasis or similarity (for example, furthermore , indeed , in fact , also ).

Indeed , cattle farming alone is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.

Summarize and anticipate

If the paragraph turns to a different aspect of the same subject, the topic sentence can briefly sum up the previous paragraph and anticipate the new information that will appear in this one.

While beef clearly has the most dramatic footprint, other animal products also have serious impacts in terms of emissions, water and land use.

Compare and contrast

If the paragraph makes a comparison or introduces contrasting information, the topic sentence can use words that highlight difference or conflict (for example, in contrast , however , yet , on the other hand ).

However , the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

You can also imply contrast or complicate your argument by formulating the topic sentence as a question.

Is veganism the only solution, or are there more sustainable ways of producing meat and dairy?

Sometimes you can use a topic sentence to introduce several paragraphs at once.

All of the examples above address the environmental impact of meat-eating versus veganism. Together, they make up one coherent part of a larger argument, so the first paragraph could use a topic sentence to introduce the whole section.

In countries with high levels of meat consumption, a move towards plant-based diets is the most obvious route to making food more sustainable. Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has significant environmental impacts.

The topic sentence usually goes at the very start of a paragraph, but sometimes it can come later to indicate a change of direction in the paragraph’s argument.

Given this evidence of the meat industry’s impact on the planet, veganism seems like the only environmentally responsible option for consumers. However, the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

In this example, the first sentence summarizes the main point that has been made so far. Then the topic sentence indicates that this paragraph will address evidence that complicates or contradicts that point.

In more advanced or creative forms of academic writing , you can play with the placement of topic sentences to build suspense and give your arguments more force. But if in doubt, to keep your research paper clear and focused, the easiest method is to place the topic sentence at the start of the paragraph.

View topic sentences in an example essay

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

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