Writing to word limits


Writing to a word limit is something we commonly have to do. Keeping to a word limit might seem hard, but what it does that is good for you is forces you to think carefully about your topic. You will need to work out what is important and significant and why and then structure the information you are presenting well. This is a great way to learn!

Keeping to the word limit forces you to focus your topic and remove material which does not belong or has already been said or does not add meaning. In other words it forces you to write more clearly and be precise about what you mean. This then helps everyone else reading your material. It will be more interesting, and easier to follow, and quicker for your audience to read.

I know it can be hard cutting stuff out, but you can do it. Keep a copy of your full version and work on cutting another draft. Then you won’t feel as if you have lost valuable writing forever. The stuff you cut may well be useful for you personally for another purpose eg: as a study aid.

Some suggestions for how to cut down your first draft are:

  1. Focus the topic a bit more – For example:
    • Instead of reviewing all treatments, pick one or two that are common or unusual or new or important or interesting in some other way, or that someone else has not already covered
    • Instead of reviewing dogs and cats, just choose one or the other
    • Instead of reviewing all breeds, just choose one
  2. Look at what you have written and remove unnecessary words. Take any sentence and see if you can take 3 words out without losing the meaning of the sentence. You will find you often can. Then do this sentence by sentence to the whole thing.
  3. Write actively not passively. Instead of “the treatment was administered by the owner” write “the owner administered the treatment” – the active voice is shorter and simpler.
  4. Remove background information and just talk about your focussed topic. For example if you are talking about treatment, you do not need to cover the clinical signs. Focus squarely on your topic.


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