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How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

Published on January 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The length of an academic essay varies depending on your level and subject of study, departmental guidelines, and specific course requirements. In general, an essay is a shorter piece of writing than a research paper  or thesis .

In most cases, your assignment will include clear guidelines on the number of words or pages you are expected to write. Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor.

In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay. But keep in mind that quality is more important than quantity – focus on making a strong argument or analysis, not on hitting a specific word count.

Table of contents

Essay length guidelines, how long is each part of an essay, using length as a guide to topic and complexity, can i go under the suggested length, can i go over the suggested length, other interesting articles, prevent plagiarism. run a free check..

In an academic essay, the main body should always take up the most space. This is where you make your arguments, give your evidence, and develop your ideas.

The introduction should be proportional to the essay’s length. In an essay under 3000 words, the introduction is usually just one paragraph. In longer and more complex essays, you might need to lay out the background and introduce your argument over two or three paragraphs.

The conclusion of an essay is often a single paragraph, even in longer essays. It doesn’t have to summarize every step of your essay, but should tie together your main points in a concise, convincing way.

The suggested word count doesn’t only tell you how long your essay should be – it also helps you work out how much information and complexity you can fit into the given space. This should guide the development of your thesis statement , which identifies the main topic of your essay and sets the boundaries of your overall argument.

A short essay will need a focused, specific topic and a clear, straightforward line of argument. A longer essay should still be focused, but it might call for a broader approach to the topic or a more complex, ambitious argument.

As you make an outline of your essay , make sure you have a clear idea of how much evidence, detail and argumentation will be needed to support your thesis. If you find that you don’t have enough ideas to fill out the word count, or that you need more space to make a convincing case, then consider revising your thesis to be more general or more specific.

The length of the essay also influences how much time you will need to spend on editing and proofreading .

You should always aim to meet the minimum length given in your assignment. If you are struggling to reach the word count:

  • Add more evidence and examples to each paragraph to clarify or strengthen your points.
  • Make sure you have fully explained or analyzed each example, and try to develop your points in more detail.
  • Address a different aspect of your topic in a new paragraph. This might involve revising your thesis statement to make a more ambitious argument.
  • Don’t use filler. Adding unnecessary words or complicated sentences will make your essay weaker and your argument less clear.
  • Don’t fixate on an exact number. Your marker probably won’t care about 50 or 100 words – it’s more important that your argument is convincing and adequately developed for an essay of the suggested length.

In some cases, you are allowed to exceed the upper word limit by 10% – so for an assignment of 2500–3000 words, you could write an absolute maximum of 3300 words. However, the rules depend on your course and institution, so always check with your instructor if you’re unsure.

Only exceed the word count if it’s really necessary to complete your argument. Longer essays take longer to grade, so avoid annoying your marker with extra work! If you are struggling to edit down:

  • Check that every paragraph is relevant to your argument, and cut out irrelevant or out-of-place information.
  • Make sure each paragraph focuses on one point and doesn’t meander.
  • Cut out filler words and make sure each sentence is clear, concise, and related to the paragraph’s point.
  • Don’t cut anything that is necessary to the logic of your argument. If you remove a paragraph, make sure to revise your transitions and fit all your points together.
  • Don’t sacrifice the introduction or conclusion . These paragraphs are crucial to an effective essay –make sure you leave enough space to thoroughly introduce your topic and decisively wrap up your argument.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Generally, in scholarly writing, with its emphasis on precision and clarity, the active voice is preferred. However, the passive voice is acceptable in some instances. When you run your essay through ProWritingAid’s essay checker, you get feedback on whether you 'r e using the passive or active voice to convey your idea.

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You can either copy and paste your essay in the essay checker field or upload your essay from your computer. Your suggestions will show once you enter text. You’ll see a number of possible grammar and spelling issues. Sign up for free to get unlimited suggestions to improve your writing style, grammar, and sentence structure. Avoid unintentional plagiarism with a premium account.

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The essay checker works with both British English and American English. Just choose the one you would like to use and your corrections will reflect this.

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No. The essay checker won’t ever write the essay for you. It will point out possible edits and advise you on changes you need to make. You have full autonomy and get to decide which changes to accept.

4. Will the essay checker auto-correct my work?

The essay writing power remains in your hands. You choose which suggestions you want to accept and you can ignore those that you don’t think apply.

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Students who have an eligible student email address can get 20% off ProWritingAid Premium. Email [email protected] from your student email address to access your discount.

6. Does ProWritingAid have a plagiarism checker?

Yes! ProWritingAid’s plagiarism checker will check your work against over a billion web-pages, published works, and academic papers, so you can be sure of its originality. Find out more about pricing for plagiarism checks here .

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  4. How Long is an Essay? Guidelines for Different Types of Essay

    Often this will be a range rather than an exact number (for example, 2500–3000 words, or 10–12 pages). If you’re not sure, always check with your instructor. In this article you’ll find some general guidelines for the length of different types of essay.

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