Writing to a word limit

The first step in writing to a word limit is to understand what is counted in the word limit – the abstract, references, tables and/or footnotes? Your software will count the words in your document. Turn on the word count feature so you can see the number of words as you type.

Before you start writing, divide the total word limit across the main sections of your work and allocate words to each section.

Being over the word limit is a more common problem than being under the limit. To reduce the number of words, consider these tips:

  • Reduce duplication
  • Say it once and remove repetition
  • Summarise material instead of using long direct quotes
  • Delete unnecessary detail
  • Use a plain English writing style
  • Combine sentences
  • Use single words instead of phrases
  • Use abbreviations if they are well known and accepted.

For very short word limits, think about your key message and write that as simply as possible. If you are just over the limit, look at every word to see if it is necessary for your message or could be deleted.

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