How to Cut Down Words in an Essay: Shorten Your Writing

When writing an essay, you naturally have a specific word count to follow as part of the guidelines. When the word count is large, but you do not have enough content to make it up, that can be hard. Meanwhile, the reverse is sometimes the case; you have too much to write, but you must compress them within a short word count. It then comes down to your knowledge of how to cut down words in an essay.

How to make an essay shorter?

Suppose you have written a college essay beyond the word count and need to reduce it. Below are some practical tips on how to make an essay shorter without dampening the efficacy of the text.

  1. Replace passive voice with active

One effective way to reduce word count in an essay is by replacing passive sentences with active ones. To start with, using an active voice in a college essay (or any essay) makes it more concise and direct. Also, passive sentences are typically longer than active ones, not to mention that they can make your paper less engaging.

For example, switch “the project was completed by the team” to “the team completed the project.” By doing so, you have reduced the 7-word passive sentence to a 5-word, more engaging, active sentence. If you do this for about ten sentences, you have successfully removed at least twenty words, thereby reducing the essay’s word count.

  1. Spot and get rid of fluffs

Another way to “make my essay shorter” is by identifying redundant or unnecessary information (known as “fluff”) in your paper. These fluffy pieces of information can range from repetitive information to drawn-out introductions. Read through your text and identify and flush out bits of information the paper can do without. Sometimes, you may even discover an entire paragraph that is entirely irrelevant or unnecessary; that’s at least 100 words gone.

  1. Remove the redundant words

Another practical and effective tip on how to cut down words in a college essay is eliminating redundant words. Redundant words are words that add no value to the meaning of a sentence. A very common example is the word “very” – for instance, say “the weather is cold” instead of “the weather is very cold.” Other examples include a free gift (a gift is already free), close proximity (“proximity” already indicates closeness), and more.

  1. Identify and shorten wordy phrases

Identifying and shortening wordy phrases is another great tip on how to shorten an essay. For instance, change “as a result of” or “due to the fact that” to “because.” This can be hard to do the first few times, but it will get easier once you practice writing short phrases.

  1. Go straight to the point

Endeavor to make your paper clear and direct; this is one great way to reduce its word count. When you have the luxury of word count, you can build up your arguments as much as you want. However, with a limited word count, you want to maximize space to ensure the salient information doesn’t get fizzled out. Thus, if you’re going to reduce your essay word count, leave building up your argument for another paper with a bigger word count.

  1. Remove “the” and “that”

“The” and “that” are two words we often use when writing, and they can be instrumental in sentences. However, there are times when you can remove them, and this action won’t change the meaning of a sentence. For example: “we knew that he was in the force in the ’80s and the ’90s.” You can write that as “we knew he was in the force in the ’80s and ’90s.”


There are many ways you can reduce the length of an essay without sacrificing its quality. Use these tips the next time you struggle to fit your thoughts into a word count. With these tips on how to reduce word count in an essay, you can cut down your essay length drastically.

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