No matter what topic or format you’re writing, imposed word counts on your piece can feel pretty stressful. There are many tactics writers will use to help them reach their word counts, but most tend to do more harm to the piece than good. Instead of sacrificing your content in favor of reaching an assigned word count, look out for some of the biggest pitfalls that happen so you can avoid them. Pro tip: To help you keep track of your word count (including readability and keyword usage), consider a resource like WordCounter.

Using Infinitive Phrases Unnecessarily

Infinitive phrases are a group of words consisting of an infinitive (which is the basic form of a verb) functioning as a noun, adverb, or adjective. Using infinitive phrases unnecessarily can be wordy in writing where it’s better to just keep it clear. While there are few instances where infinitive phrases can provide necessary emphasis, the overuse of them can seem like fluff to reach a word count.


Wordy: The function of a microwave oven is to heat up food quickly.

Succinct: A microwave oven heats food quickly.

Dragging on Sentences Unnecessarily

Have you ever been speaking with someone and find they’re dragging on and on and on to tell a story? The same thing can happen in writing. This is sometimes referred to as “waffling,” where writers harp on a topic for a long time. There’s no need to take whole paragraph to explain a point that could be fully explained in a more succinct way in just a sentence or two.

Typically, it takes a read through of your piece after it’s written to properly catch any instances where sentences are dragging on. Waiting until after the piece is written can be more beneficial to uncovering these mistakes so that, on the first try, you get out your thoughts. Then, you can read through them and strategize a way to explain the same thing concisely. 

Overusing Expletives at the Beginning of Sentences

Expletives in prose are sentences that begin with “It is,” “It was,” “There is,” or “There are.” Sometimes, even the verb “to be” as a part of a sentence is considered an expletive. While there are some cases where using an expletive helps to effectively emphasize a point, more often than not it’s just wordy. If you’re not looking to emphasize a point, opt for a more succinct version of the sentence.


Wordy: There are four people who should be contacted if…

Succinct: Contact these four people if… 

Overexplaining the Conclusion

The conclusion of your piece is meant to recap the key takeaways you’ve explained. Your conclusion should remain clear and concise and give an overarching answer to the topic. Maintain clarity and wrap the piece in a conclusive manner that leaves the reader satisfied. The final paragraph is also the area where you can include a call to action for the reader to keep them engaged and build a relationship.

Replacing Direct Expressions with Circumlocutions

Circumlocutions occur when writers express an idea by using an unnecessarily large number of words when the idea could be explained fully in fewer. While circumlocutions are sometimes used as a way to be deliberately vague or evasive, some writers use this a way to fluff up a piece to meet word count requirements. It adds extra words to expressions that seem commonplace, but it doesn’t add any additional meaning or emphasis, so it simply comes off too wordy.


Wordy: …is able to…

Succinct: …can…

Wordy: The teacher has the ability to influence her students.

Succinct: The teacher can influence her students.

Not Proofreading Work

While proofreading your work can be a great method for uncovering common word count pitfalls, it can also uncover areas where you can improve your work and build up your word count. You may find areas in the text that need to be fleshed out more or further explained. Without proofreading, you wouldn’t be able to discover those areas of your work that can help you reach your goal.


Avoiding these common pitfalls in writing to meet a word count is something that will take practice. If you’re accustomed to making these mistakes, don’t fret. Be on the lookout for them and continue proofreading your work to correct the errors. Eventually, this style of writing will come second nature to you and you can build up your content qualitatively to reach your word count goals.