Wondering how long is an essay supposed to be?

Have you been asked to write an essay and find yourself unsure about how long it should be? While it may seem like this is a very simple thing that you should know, the reality is that most people have had to ask this question at some point in their education. The simple answer is that there is no set length for an essay, but there are guidelines which can tell you about the length you should aim for.

Sometimes you will get a direction in the form of pages, specifying that you have to write an essay of a certain number of pages on a topic. This is also confusing, because how much text comes on the page depends on the font and spacing being used. If your institute uses single spacing for documents, it roughly comes out to 500 words per page. This means that if you have been told to write a 5 page essay, you are probably expected to write a 2500 word essay.

If your institute uses double spacing between lines then it comes out to around 250 words per page. This means that if you have been told to write a 5 page essay, you are probably expected to write a 1250 word essay. Some institutes also average out the number and count 380 words as a page. Your best bet is to ask around. If you don’t want to talk to a teacher simply ask someone senior who has experience writing essays.

Getting more information about the essay length

Many students are nervous about contacting the teacher/professor/instructor and asking for a specific essay length they should aim for. The students want to create a good impression in front of the authority figure and think that asking such a simple question, something they should be able to figure out themselves, may make the teacher/professor/instructor think that the student is not intelligent enough.

This couldn’t be farther from the truth, as asking for the essay length is the smartest thing you can do in this situation. Whoever told you to write the essay should have specified how long of an essay you needed to write and by asking for specifications you are helping them realize their mistake. Do not be surprised if after your query the teacher/professor/instructor ends up telling the rest of the students about the essay length because you made them realize that the students do not have full instructions regarding their assignment and are wondering how long is an essay supposed to be.

Institutional guidelines

If you have recently joined a new college or university you should look at the style guide it provides. Many major institutions now post such a guide on their website. This style guide explains how you are expected to submit your assignments. They specify which fonts are acceptable, what font size is appropriate, whether you should use single or double spacing, and other similar things. The guide may also shed light on how long your essays need to be.