4,000 Words (15-17 Pages) of Revised Writing

A sampling of possible configurations (with fewer, shorter assignments recommended):

  • One 4,000-word paper (broken into chunks with deadlines & feedback throughout the semester, e.g. proposal, annotated bibliography, paragraph summary outline, body draft with accompanying questions from the author, introduction and conclusion, abstract, etc.)
  • Four 500-word lesson plans based on summaries and one 2,000-word paper (in chunks)
  • One 750-word biographical sketch based on interview questions, one 1,000-word report and one 250-word brochure based on lab/field notes, and one 2,000-word magazine article.
  • Ten 250-word pensées based on reading logs and one 1500-word white paper.

Tip: Require word counts instead of pages. Most journals do—and you eliminate font/margin games.

Tip: Try assignments that require students to go from long to short as well as short to long. Concision forces preciseness. As Mark Twain said, "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."

Tip: Building writing muscles and reinforcing content go hand in hand. Have students recast similar material for a different purpose (informing vs. persuading) or a different audience (customers vs. stockholders) or in a different form (press release vs. conference presentation).

Tip: Weigh the sequencing of assignments. Repeated use of the same format (e.g. 250-word pensées) lets students master the form and, once it becomes second nature, focus on content.

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