I will strictly enforce the upper limits on essay assignments. Students should aim to construct essays within the range established by the recommended minimum and absolute maximum for each assignment. Per the honor code, I will trust that students accurately report the word counts for their documents. As with all writing, students should build time into their editing schedule to fit their arguments within the specified constraints.

Overages & Penalties
Generally speaking, 4% will be deducted for each 4% the essay is over the word limit, beginning with the first word over the specified limit. The following is the penalty schedule:

Amount of Word Overrun

Penalty Assessed
1 word – 3.999%
4 – 7.999%
8 – 11.999%
12 – 15.999%
16 – 19.999%
20 – 23.999%

For essays over the limit by 24% or more, students should consult with me about the penalties to be applied.

What’s Included in the Word Count?
The following are not included in the word count:
  • All material on the title page
  • Bibliography
  • Page Numbers & other material identifying information in the “header” and “footer” (your name, date, &c.)
  • Citations
The following are included in the word count:
  • All prose between the title page and the bibliography
  • Discursive footnotes (excluding the citation)
  • The words in tables, charts, graphs, diagrams, &c.

Each assignment will specify whether quotes themselves are included in the word count. See the details for the assignment in question.

Strict Enforcement
Do not trust contrary norms or experience. In my classes, I will rigorously (but not arbitrarily) enforce these word limits. I am fully committed to maximizing fairness and predictability. Rigorous enforcement of this policy is indispensable toward that end.

Wonder why I’m so unusually strict about these things? I explain my rationale here.