Friday, January 7, 2011

Minimum Word Requirements Ruin Quality

This topic has come up a few times recently for me, being the beginning of a new semester and all.  When a instructor asks students to meet a certain word requirement, in my opinion it will most likely ruin the results.  For instance, I just completed about 1,000 words pertaining to a proposal for a final project.  In case that seems odd, I will repeat that, I wrote a 1,000 words describing a paper they want to reach 2,500 to 3,000 words.  I wrote a description of what I wanted to complete my final on, and looked down at the good old Microsoft Word word counter and saw a whopping 260 some odd words!  Hmmm... what the hell to do?  Well you read through it and then try to rewrite some things and extend some bit.  Couple hours of creative writing later I'm at about 400 words and at my wits end on how to add more without writing the paper, after all this is just the proposal.

I absolutely hate this feeling, like you've written enough to get your point across with sufficient background, examples, and sources; however, because that all important A requires you to add so many words, you have to become redundant.  Now here come the arguments, well if you're so far behind the requirements you can't possibly have enough information.  To that I say this, 'not true'. When discussing the college paper you have to realize we're simply talking about a 1,000 words equaling anything from 3-8 pages, depending.  Why do I need to add so much content when I can concisely express the same message with better clarity in less?  This is not a book, and I'm not writing anything on an expert level, yet.

So to get that A, what does one do in order to meet these ridiculous minimum word requirements?  You start repeating yourself, try to restate important points.  Basically, create this fluff that you don't really need and do not re-enforce anything in my brain other than my fleeting confidence that my paper is still poignant and written with quality.  I understand that minimums are in place to prevent lazy people from writing 300 words on what should really be 1,500 words, so a stupid requirement is passed along to those who try and can write with proficiency.

Solution?  Don't enforce a damn minimum, switch to a recommendation.  Read the paper and assess quality.  Why should grades be reduced purely based on a number?

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