As you advance through your academic career, you’ll have to write essays on numerous subjects for a variety of different classes. You may find some assignments easier than others, especially if it’s subject matter you’re passionate about. Other times, you may be struggling to meet a minimum word or page count to complete your essay. By following a few simple guidelines, you’ll learn how to add to your essay to both lengthen it and make it more effective.

How Do You Start Off an Essay?

No matter what you’re writing about, every essay should begin with a solid hook. A hook can be a famous or lesser-known quotation, a brief anecdote, a rhetorical question or a shocking statistic. You’ll want to start from a broad perspective, and as you progress through your introduction, narrow down to your specific thesis statement.

When you’re writing your essay, you should always finalize your thesis statement before moving forward. Having a compelling, one or two sentence thesis statement will serve as a “roadmap” of sorts for your essay and help guide you as you build your body paragraphs. In between your hook and your thesis statement, you’ll want to write about five more sentences to explain the ideas you plan to address in your paper. Your thesis statement should always be the last sentence or two in your introduction.

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How to Make an Essay Longer

Lengthening your paper without adding useless fluff will require you to go back to your initial outline, since the most effective way to add length is to do more research. Are there any “holes” in your outline that you can fill in?

If you’re writing an expository essay about the history of voting rights in America, for example, you could dig into the research to find more statistics, more stories and additional examples of major events that took place. Adding one or two block quotes (of four or more lines) from credible experts can also increase the length of your paper—provided they’re relevant to your subject matter and from a known expert in the field.

If you’re writing a persuasive essay, including a paragraph or two dedicated to the counterargument will add weight to your paper. If you’re working on a narrative essay, add in more personal examples and anecdote. No matter what your subject matter, aim to have at least five to seven sentences in each paragraph, being sure to vary your sentence structures.

Your conclusion can also add length to your essay. Instead of briefly wrapping up your paper in two or three short sentences, take the time to rephrase your main points, restate your essay and end with a clinching statement that will grab your reader’s attention.

If you’re tempted to physically adjust your paper to make it appear longer, here’s a word of advice: don’t. Adjusting margins, increasing font sizes or adding extra spaces may make your paper appear longer, but it’ll still be short on content. Moreover, teachers are more than familiar with these tricks, and could potentially knock down your grade for using them.

How Many Words are in a Good Essay?

Throughout high school, many teachers abide by the five-paragraph essay format. This means you’ll be writing a paper with an introduction, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. As you progress into higher grades and into harder classes, the word count and minimum page requirements will certainly increase.

Typically, at the high school level, a two-to-five-page paper is standard. A double-spaced page at 12-point font is typically around 250 words, so you're looking at an average length of approximately 500 to 1,250 words. Different essays may have different requirements.

Narrative essays, which tell a story, are creative essays that don’t follow a specific structure. For these, you’ll have to adhere to your teacher’s assignment guidelines for word count or page length.

Argumentative essays require a clear thesis in the introduction, three to five paragraphs defending your position, a paragraph that refutes the other side of the argument and a compelling conclusion.

Descriptive essays, which ask you to define and describe a person, place or thing, offer much more freedom in their structure but should still include a solid introduction, three to five body paragraphs and a conclusion.

Expository essays research or investigate a specific topic. These essays are often assigned in English and Social Studies courses as a method for gauging a student’s understanding of a particular subject matter. Like argumentative essays, expository essays require a specific format, including an introduction with a thesis statement, several body paragraphs and a conclusion.

The number of words required in an essay is ultimately up to your teacher. There is no hard and fast rule as to how many words will make up a good essay. However, most body paragraphs need about five to seven sentences to be effective and to thoroughly explain your topic. This applies to all essays, no matter what the minimum word count. In a nutshell, writing teachers typically tell students that an essay should be “as long as it needs to be.”

About the Author

Jennifer Brozak earned her state teaching certificate in Secondary English and Communications from St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., and her bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Pittsburgh. A former high school English teacher, Jennifer enjoys writing articles about parenting and education and has contributed to Reader's Digest, Mamapedia, Shmoop and more.