Word counting my way into monotony

The word count — the single most aggravating aspect of essay-writing that always seems to plague me at the end of writing a paper. For many people, reaching the minimum word limit is a task as futile as waking up for an 8 a.m. class past the first semester of freshman year. Conversely, I usually find myself in the generally smaller camp of unfortunately verbose individuals who struggle with the antithetical predicament of being significantly over the word limit.

Why do high school teachers and college professors insist on imposing rigid boundaries for the amount of words with which students choose to express themselves? The minimum amount of words required probably has much to do with the fact that many — though not all — students prefer the “minimum input and maximum output” approach. Students, especially those who have much on their plate, are constantly searching for means by which to get the best possible grades with the least time expended.

There are many of us, however, who are just as invested in our academic performance, but limiting ourselves to the number of words allotted by our instructors is as insulting as it is impossible. Personally, I find re-reading some of my own work that I find consummate with the intention of making it more concise to be extremely painful and frustrating. As tedious as adding words to an abbreviated essay is for some, removing words from a length essay is just as time-consuming.

When students are forced to modify their writing based on word count, not only is it time-inefficient, but the writing itself loses the unique character and medium of expression of each student. When I am forced to remove words and phrases from my writing that I perhaps put there in the first place because I believed them to be necessary, I am not doing justice to my natural flow of thought and style of writing. When others find themselves adding possibly unnecessary words and phrases to their work to make it longer, their writing becomes awkward and uncharacteristic of themselves.

Though instructors have adopted the method of designating a word limit on papers as a means of practicality, how much good is it really doing students? The final work that high school teachers and college professors receive form their students has satisfied the word limit often by sacrificing the voice of the person who crafted it. While writing has the potential of being full of vivid colors, students are forced to work with shades of gray for fear of a lower grade.

Some students thrive in the land of concision, and others in the land of verbosity — each can be beautiful and effective in its own way, but word counts blur the lines between the two until all that is left is the land of monotony.

Contact Rachel Henry at [email protected].