How important is the word count

(42 Posts)
Metaphors Tue 12-May-15 20:51:34

I'm doing a level 4 diploma - equivalent to the first year of a degree.

I have 5 assignments of 3500 words and one of 6000 words to complete, but I just can't do it within the wordcount. If I give up and submit them about 15-20% long how much will it matter? It does say +/- 10% but I'm over that, around 5-10% over the upper limit IYSWIM.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Tue 12-May-15 20:57:38

It will matter. Some places will dock a set number of marks. You need to either cut a section (are you sure everything is relevant?) or go through and try to say things more concisely.

GobbyAbby Tue 12-May-15 21:42:05

You need to dock it.Knowing what to put in and what to leave out is part of the skill being assessed

0x530x610x750x630x79 Tue 12-May-15 21:50:43

Sorry off topic, but reading the title in active i thought well "count" is quite an important word really.

Katymac Tue 12-May-15 21:52:52

One of my OU tutors would refuse to mark over the word count - they just drew a rwd line & read/marked nothing below it

I only did it once

HSMMaCM Tue 12-May-15 21:55:21

They don't have to mark past the word count, although some tutors will allow 10%. Read your sentences to see what you can cut. For example, the word 'that' is rarely needed - have you got many?

SnozzberryPie Tue 12-May-15 22:11:57

How many words over are you? You can cut out a lot just by rewording things. Hyphenate any words that can be hyphenated as this counts as one word instead of two.

You don't need to count footnotes or the bibliography in the word count.

If this still isn't enough then you will need to cut out a section - try to work out if there is anything that isn't relevant to your argument.

MandMand Tue 12-May-15 22:26:31

Yes, it really does matter, and you really do need to make cuts so it comes within the word count.

Can you get someone else to proof read through the assignments for you and identify any bits where you might start to waffle or repeat yourself? It can be difficult to spot this yourself sometimes.

Do you keep to a clear structure? One short introductory paragraph which sets out what you're going to say, then develop the argument, critique or evaluate the evidence, then one paragraph of conclusion tying it all together?

I know its really hard to cut out material that you've put a lot of time and effort into researching and writing, but being able to edit yourself is an important skill. Learning how to do this now will really help you as you progress further into your degree.

Kez100 Tue 12-May-15 22:30:56

My Dd says the rules are in her assignment brief. She's allowed ten percent either way. Otherwise lose marks.

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 12-May-15 23:05:17

We can't possibly answer.

Go and get your course handbook. It should be online. It will tell you.

It varies hugely from place to place.

Galvanized Tue 12-May-15 23:08:48

Ime you get docked a whole grade. It's a certain % of marks but effectively docks you a whole grade. Keep editing, it's worth making sure it is within the required length.

lougle Tue 12-May-15 23:11:23

If you're over +/- 10% you can lose 10% of your mark. It's a big deal.

chemenger Wed 13-May-15 08:16:06

Remember that the word count may be set somewhat arbitrarily, but the skill of writing concisely and precisely and structuring an essay or report to fit the set requirements is a key one for academic success (and beyond). I have so often had the conversation with a student that goes "But I did even more than what was required and it was all good" with the reply "It was excellent, but it wasn't what I asked for". Its a hard lesson to learn for many students, and sometimes expensive.

ichappy Wed 13-May-15 09:34:18

Rules and penalties related to word counts vary between institutions, courses, and assignments. Don't assume that any single piece of advice here is necessarily correct for your assignment - go and check or ask your tutor.

If your assignment is summative (that is, if the mark counts towards your degree) and you've been told that +10% is the upper limit, you will almost certainly be penalised for going over that limit.

Again, you'll have to go and check on how penalties are applied; often a fixed number of marks is deducted according to the percentage range you exceed the limit (e.g. 5 marks for 0-10% over, 10 marks for 10-20%, etc.)

In my experience of marking (and penalising) undergraduate essays, I can tell you that the 'advantage' gained by exceeding the word limit seldom outweighs the disadvantage of having the marks deducted. That is, you will most likely fare worse by exceeding the limit then by trimming your piece to fit it, however unsatisfied you might be with the end product.

UptheChimney Wed 13-May-15 09:42:00

It is part of the academic discipline and learning to stay within the word count. If I were your marker, I would stop reading after the word count is exceeded.

There is no such thing here as "can't do it within the word count." What you need to do is evaluate, sift, prioritise and edit. That is part of what you being assessed on.

To say you "can't" could be assessed as self-indulgence, or a lack of analytical ability to evaluate what is essential in answering the questions set.

Personally, I detest that +/- 10% -- as far as I'm concerned, the word count is the word count is the word count. It's an important professional skill, and one you'll be called upon to exercise in a lot of situations eg an online application form for funding or a job, which just stops registering characters or keystrokes after a specified number.

So develop that discipline now: it's part of the analytical thinking skill set you're studying to develop.

UptheChimney Wed 13-May-15 09:43:08

In my experience of marking (and penalising) undergraduate essays, I can tell you that the 'advantage' gained by exceeding the word limit seldom outweighs the disadvantage of having the marks deducted

Yes, yes! It's usually waffle, and easily edited out.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 13-May-15 09:53:30

Can't answer for your institution, but I would say you're pushing your luck even at 10% over: it's tolerated, not encouraged. Many places will automatically penalise after that, but be annoyed before it iyswim.

And what UpTheChimney says, to the letter.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 13-May-15 09:55:13

But a word of caution - someone said above that footnotes don't count - they do in any system I've ever used!

But sometimes for dissertations, quotations don't (for some reason), so do check carefully what is and is not included.

Hakluyt Wed 13-May-15 10:02:31

Check the rules- but dd is in her first year at university and submitted a too long essay, and her tutor drew a line at the word count and maked to that point, pointing out where it said in the rubric that that would happen. Then to rub salt into the wound, she then marked the whole essay-it made the difference between a 1st and a 2nd. She won't do it again.

Hakluyt Wed 13-May-15 10:04:14

TOSN- when dd told me what had happened it reminded me of Miss Cromwell..........grin

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 13-May-15 10:52:35

I bet she won't! Hope DD didn't ask if the tutor would - sort of - put a note about it in her report - sort of - explaining what had happened.... grin

Hakluyt Wed 13-May-15 11:06:24

At least I didn't stop her riding lessons......

TheOriginalSteamingNit Wed 13-May-15 11:26:30

(I think it is safe to say that we do know about Ms Haklyut's mother, yes...).

OP though - I hope you're checking this out carefully. Make sure you know what's included and what isn't for this assignment, and don't risk annoying your tutor by appearing to have taken the (word count!) law into your own hands!

ImperialBlether Wed 13-May-15 11:29:45

Oooh I love editing! I could knock anything down by that amount.

Manchester and Salford say 10% either way.

catlovingdoctor Wed 13-May-15 11:38:19

At my uni you get a reduction in marks proportional to how far you exceed the word count, after an already generous 10% bracket. So if you go over by 20% you lose 20% of the marks. I think it's a good academic skill to develop to be able to write succinctly and only mention pertinent facts. To be over the word count by too much shows a lack of focus. You just need to be militant and slash things out.

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