Let’s face it, students: sometimes in the middle of writing an essay, you realize your thesis doesn’t quite have the “legs” you thought it did. You might find that you’re only able to write 10 pages, when you’ve been instructed to write 20. Not to worry — there are many subtle tricks you can use to stretch that essay out. Your professor will be none the wiser.
1. The Classic “Big Punctuation” Trick
You’re probably writing your essay in size-12 text. Here’s a classic trick: make all your periods, commas, and exclamation points size-13 text. You’ll be surprised at how much this inflates your page count, and the change in text size will be too subtle for your professor to notice.
2. Long Quotations
There’s no better way to stretch that page count than by including a full paragraph of quotations on nearly every page.
3. Use Small Paper
Sure, your essay may only be 10 pages, but that’s on standard 8” x 11” paper. Print your essay on 4” x 5.5” paper instead. It sounds crazy, but this will actually double your page count, and your professor will never notice.
4. The “Double Articles” Trick
Read the following sentence:
“Among a pantheon of literature exploring 20th-century Indian diaspora, perhaps the the most essential is Bharati’s Mukherjeet’s work beginning in 1971 with…”
Now looker closer — you probably didn’t even notice that the word “the” appears back-to-back. The human brain is conditioned to “correct” this mistake without even realizing it. Double up your “the’s” and watch that paper grow before your very eyes!
5. The “Five Diasporas” Trick
Read the following sentence:
“Among a pantheon of literature exploring 20th-century Indian diaspora diaspora diaspora diaspora diaspora, perhaps the most essential is Bharati’s Mukherjeet’s work beginning in 1971.”
You probably didn’t even notice that the word “diaspora” is written back-to-back five times. This is the classic “five diasporas” trick.
6. Eulogize Everybody
A great little trick to expand that page count is to briefly eulogize any deceased figure mentioned in the essay. It works especially well if you only mention people who have passed away. Example:
“Pioneers in the field of astrophysics include Carl Sagan (rest in peace), Stephen Hawking (gone but not forgotten), Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar (still hard to believe he’s gone), Jerry E. Nelson (we love you brother) and Annie Jump Cannon (damn…)”
7. The “Guess What?” Trick
A subtle way to eke out a few extra pages is to preface all your facts, arguments, and observations with the phrase “Guess what?” Example:
“The capitalist ideal is a system in which every person’s potential to prosper is relative to their work ethic. Guess what? I will now refute this by examining Marx’s notion of pauperism. Guess what? Karl Marx was born in Germany in 1818…”
Your professor will not notice this.
8. The “Mama Mia!” Maneuver
Similar to the “Guess What?” trick, you can pad an essay by punctuating all your facts, arguments, and observations with the phrase “Mama mia!” Not only will this make your paper longer, but it will also help to really drive things home. Example:
BQ. “Studies show that a rise in global temperatures has melted roughly 80% of the Earth’s icebergs since 1910. Mama mia! Climate scientists predict that Arctic ice may be completely melted by 2050. MAMA MIA!!!”
9. Include an Intermission
Still falling short of that page count? Including an intermission is a time-tested classic. In the middle of your essay, instruct your professor to take a brief intermission. Include 20-30 blank pages at this point, giving your professor time to stretch their legs, use the bathroom, smoke a cigarette, etc. You’ll be amazed at how much 20-30 pages of blank space can stretch your page count. Sometimes it can be up to 30 pages.
10. Spell Out Numbers
An easy way to get some extra length is to spell out numbers. The more numbers you can squeeze in, the better. Compare the following paragraphs:
“James K. Polk was born in 1795 and would go on to become the 11th President of the United States in 1844.”
“James K. Polk was born in seventeen ninety-five and would go on to become the eleventh president of the United States (of which there are fifty) in eighteen forty-four at the age of forty-nine, succeeding the tenth president John Tyler (born seventeen-ninety) and preceding the twelfth president, Zachary Tyler (the first), who was elected in eighteen forty-nine, forty-seven years after the War of Eighteen-Twelve.”
11. Translate It Into Spanish
At the end of your short essay, explain that you will now translate it into Spanish so that Spanish-speaking readers may enjoy it as well. Re-writing your entire essay into a different language and including the foreign translation in the master document is a quick way to watch that page count double. You can translate it into other languages, too — just keep going until you hit the page minimum.
12. The Psych-Out
Get some extra mileage out of your essay by dedicating several pages to arguing the exact opposite of your thesis, then say: “NOT! The exact opposite is true” and invert everything you’ve just written. Example:
“…In conclusion, the Industrial Revolution had no impact on the civilized world whatsoever. NOT! The exact opposite is true. Let us now explore the impact the Industrial Revolution had on the civilized world.”
13. The “Opposite Day” Switcheroo
Argue the opposite of your thesis for several pages, then say, “…On OPPOSITE DAY.” This is basically the same as the “Psych-Out,” but I needed to stretch this list out a little.
14. Number Your Pages With Roman Numerals
You may be able to “sneak one by” your professor by numbering your pages in Roman numerals. If they’re unfamiliar with the Roman numeral system, they won’t even be able to tell how many pages your paper is. Note that this will not work if they are a professor of Latin, or know how to count.
15. Change Your Thesis In the Middle of the Essay
Has your thesis run out of steam by page 5? You can go ahead and change to a different thesis at any point. Example:
“At this juncture, I am actually realizing I have a better thesis than the one I’ve laid out in the previous five pages. Let us now pivot to this new thesis and explore it in depth.”
It’s okay to do this a bunch of times. I have written thesis papers with over 20 different theses in them.
16. Accuse Your Professor of Losing A Bunch of the Pages
If all else fails, you can turn in your way-too-short essay as is, then when your professor reprimands you for failing to meet the page-minimum, insist that the professor must have lost a bunch of the pages. Furthermore, you can tell your professor, “Aw man, those pages you lost had all the best parts, too.” This works 100% of the time.