Quick tips to condense word count in your dissertation

A dissertation is usually around 80,000 words. As a research candidate, you strive hard to stick to the word limit in your dissertation, lest you get penalised.

Therefore, before beginning with your writing process, always create a rough framework of your dissertation and allocate a certain word limit to each of its respective sections. When you begin writing with a pre-decided word limit in your mind, you would focus more on the central idea of the research i.e. relevant aspects. You should ignore irrelevant facts and try making shorter sentences by making use of bullets.

Going a little above or below the prescribed word limit (10% of the whole text) is generally acceptable. But, what if you cannot manage to do so? Here are a few quick tips to reduce your word count after you have finished writing your dissertation

Describing Research Findings
Instead of describing your research findings in this way –

It was found that the mice in the research group A were less receptive to the medication as compared to group B. (22 words)

You can write a concise statement in the following way –
The mice in the research group A were less receptive to the medication as compared to group B. (18 words)

Delete adverbs
Spot all adverbs i.e. all words in your text ending with a – ly and replace them with a single more word to decrease the word limit. For example –  

Richard ran quickly towards the door to open it. (9 words)

Richard hurried towards the door to open it. (8 words)

Remove Verbosity & Redundancies –  Prune the sentences and remove all words which induce wordiness in the text. For example –

The actor with versatility, ……………………

The versatile actor, ………………………….

Here replacing the noun versatility with the adjective versatile cuts out the wordiness.

Also, remove redundant elements from the text like in the following example –

Mark was extremely irate, displeased and annoyed. (7 words)

Mark was annoyed. (3 words)

The above three adjectives are synonymous and therefore, using them all in the same sentence hardly provide any added value to the sentence.

Contract Compound Verbs – Contract compound words in the following way to reduce the word count by half –

Have not – haven’t
Does not – doesn’t
Will not – won’t
Could not – couldn’t
Should not – shouldn’t

Remove Prepositions – Removing prepositions can provide lucidity to your content. For example –

Tea from Turkey – Turkish Tea

Writer of detective fiction – Detective Fiction Writer

Make Judicious Use of Tables & Figures
Tables and figures are exempted from the word count. Therefore, try to place your data in a tabular form instead of lengthy paragraphs.

Prefer Active Voice Over Passive Voice
Active voice simplifies the sentences and improves readability. For example –

The letter was taken by Gillian and was delivered to the manager immediately. (13 words)

Gillian took the letter and delivered it to the manager immediately. (11 words)

Hyphenated words
The easiest way to deceive the automated word processing systems is by making use of hyphenated words. As these words are counted as one even though they occupy the same space. Few examples are –  half-serious, half-hearted, cross-complaint, bail-out, build-up etc.

Although, these are minor alterations, self – editing can reduce the word count to a certain extent, if done extensively. Yet, for substantive editing, it is advised to take help of a professional academic editor  as they can effortlessly maintain brevity in the text without compromising on the quality.

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