Papers: How to up a page count

You’re almost done. You’ve pretty much finished out your sections. But then realize you’re still two pages from hitting your page count and only half an hour from passing your deadline. Now what?

A normal page has about 22 lines of double spaced content on it (but who’s counting?). If you can come up with a couple extra lines here and there, those lines can really add up.

At the same time, though, this is where things can get, well, kind of tacky. Use these tricks at your own risk.

Lots of headings

Even if you use the most generic outline out there, you’ll start with something like this: Introduction >> Section 1 >> Section 2 >> Section 3 >> Conclusion >> Bibliography. The Bibliography won’t count toward your page count, so don’t include that. That leaves five main headings so far.

Remember, though, that in each section, I said to include three subsections (or paragraphs). If you include a heading for each of those, that adds an extra nine headings to your paper, bringing the total up to 14 altogether.

But what about the Introduction and Conclusion? If you can add three headings to each of those as well, that’ll put you up to 20 headings for the paper overall. That’s a lot of headings, roughly an entire page of double spaced content.

So name your sections, and subsections. (Bonus: headings can take the place of transitions in your prose.)

Lots of orphaned words

An orphaned word is when you leave just one word on a line all by itself at the end of a paragraph.

Let’s go back to our outline again, the one with just five main sections. Each section should have at the very least three paragraphs. Do the math: 5 x 3 = 15. Most likely you’ll have even more than three paragraphs per section, but still even at 15, if you can orphan a word at the end of each of those paragraphs, you’ve basically added the bulk of another page to your paper.

The quickest way to do this is to just cut up your paragraphs by hitting “enter” in the middle of your longish ones. Simple, simple.

The other easy way to expand a line a bit here and there is to add adjectives or adverbs. Like if I wanted to expand that previous sentence, I might write, “The other super easy way to discreetly expand a short line here and there…”

Lots of stock footnotes

Footnotes don’t quite take up as much space as a line of text in your actual content. They’re double spaced one to another, but individually – like within one individual footnote – they’re single spaced.

Also, for how little space they take up, footnotes take a lot of work. You have to find something to include in your actual content, link it up with a footnote, cite the source, maybe include that source in the Bibliography if you haven’t already… and that doesn’t even include the time it takes to find the source.

As a result, it’s not usually that efficient to try to fill pages with footnotes. Usually, it’s just better to write more real content.

There is, however, an exception. You can add what I call “stock footnotes.” Stock footnotes are like stock photos. They’re available to everyone, kind of generic, and pretty much just used to make things look better.

Some examples of stock footnotes:

  • “For more on this topic, see such and such.” I like to include this kind at the end of a section or paragraph and just cite whatever sources I used most to put together that section. With this kind of footnote, you don’t really have to be referring to anything in particular within the source. That means you don’t have to hunt for anything except the reference info, which shouldn’t be hard because you’ve used it for the rest of the content in that section.
  • Quotes or info you cut from your paper. Sometimes, you’ll have written up a whole paraphrased paragraph or jotted down a cool quote or data point or whatever only to find in the end it doesn’t work for your paper. If it’s still somewhat related to you topic, though, instead of deleting it altogether, throw it into a footnote. You have the info anyway, and you’re just going to trash it otherwise, so adding it as a footnote shouldn’t take much extra time. And if it’s an entire paragraph or something, it can take up at least a couple lines of space, making you look oh-so-academic in the process.

(Be careful with those. It’ll look suspicious if you use them more than a few times each in one paper.)

Individually, these tactics might not seem to beef up your paper that much. Together, though, they can add quite a bit of bulk. An extra page worth of headings, maybe half a page or so of orphaned words, plus another half page of stock footnotes – that’s two extra pages of content. In a 20-page paper, that’s 10% of your entire page count.

Not bad for throwaway material, much smoother than leaving the last page with just three sentences on it and trying to pass that off as an entire page the way the amateurs do it.

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