How to Make Your Paper Longer, Part Two: The Sneaky Way

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I told you last week that trying to use tricks and chicanery to artificially inflate your paper’s length is the wrong way to go about it. Before I go any further, I want to reiterate the reasons not to use the tricks I’m about to tell you. 

1. These will barely, if at all, increase your word count. Most professors require digital copies as well as hard copies of your papers, and they’ll be able to see that the page count doesn’t match the word count.

2. You can’t use these tricks when you have to take a final exam that involves essay questions (most of them beyond 100-level courses). Sure, you can write bigger, but it becomes painfully obvious what you’re doing, and professors usually have a Ph.D. They’re (usually) not stupid.

3. The whole point of writing a paper is to learn things. You’re supposed to become an expert, or a reasonable facsimile of one, when you write a paper on a topic. Relying heavily on formatting sneakiness to get by will not help you learn. And learning is good.

Other guides are going to tell you to use unnecessarily long sentences, packed with extra adjectives. I never recommend that. I believe strongly in economy of language. There is little reason to use twenty words when six will do, at least in an academic paper. Remember that you’re going to be graded on the content of your paper, and that the length and other requirements are just necessary for your professor to read it in the first place. Think of your page count requirement and source minimums as a resume; it’s designed to get you an interview– in this comparison, your paper is that interview. The strength of your argument is what will determine your grade.

Now that I’ve said all of that, here is the list of evil tricks you can use to sleaze your way to a passing grade.

1. Margin Messing.

This one was in vogue my first year of college. It’s easy to execute, and can add an extra page pretty easily. The process is simple. In your word document (I use Microsoft Word 2007, because it has pretty much all of the features of the newer versions without the clunkier UI) head to Page Layout–> Margins–> Custom Margins. The default is one inch on all sides. The object here is to bump it up without anyone noticing, so subtle increases are the way to go, but you also need to add enough to make a difference.

I would avoid messing with the left margin, since the document is going to be left-defined and it’ll be pretty obvious to tell what you’ve done. But, since the right side is where words get cut off and dumped onto the next line, it’s going to be pretty uneven anyway, and you can get away with more. You can also bump up the bottom margins, since, especially on longer papers, you’re going to have page numbers or footnotes there anyway. I wouldn’t recommend going beyond 1.5″ settings, however; past that gets pretty obvious and extreme.

A 1.5″ margin on the right and bottom of your document will increase page length by about ten percent– I just checked it on my copy of The Fall of Fort Courage, and it jumped from 42 to 47 pages. Definitely worth your time.

The disadvantages to using margin manipulation is that there are too many ways for a teacher to detect it. Comparing it with other students’ submissions will make what you’ve done obvious, especially if you go overboard. To avoid detection, use this method sparingly.

2. Font Choice

Most professors tell you to use Times New Roman. I’ve never had a single one ever turn down a submission because a different font was used. As long as you use one that isn’t ludicrous, like Gothic or (God forbid) Comic Sans, you’ll probably get away with this one.

My favorite is Courier New. Based on typewriters, it doesn’t look much different from Times New Roman. The shapes of the letters are similar, but the opacity is a little lower, so the characters appear a little fainter, especially in comparison.

That said, each character takes up significantly more space than in most other fonts. It can increase your page count by twenty percent. Again, I just reapplied it to my copy of The Fall of Fort Courage, which went from 42 to 50 pages.

The drawback is that this is the most visually obvious change you can make. Even a quick glance will reveal that you’re using a different font. That makes this one riskier, but, as I said before, you probably aren’t going to be penalized for it. At least, I’ve never seen anyone get their paper returned because of font choice. That said, use this with caution.

3. Spacing Fudging

So they want you to double-space your paper. That’s cool. You aren’t going to do that. This is probably the easiest and least noticeable way to increase your page count. And it’s ludicrously easy. Just go to Paragraph–> Spacing –> Multiple and set it to 2.1 or 2.2.

This doesn’t give you as big a boost, somewhere around eight percent. In the document I’ve been using, I went from 42 to 45 pages– not a crazy increase, but definitely significant.

There really aren’t any drawbacks or disadvantages to using this one. Professors can’t tell what you did by looking at it; they’d need to print out a template and visually compare the overlays. That isn’t likely to happen. Most professors who were worried about this kind of thing would require a digital copy anyway, and if they were doing that, none of these methods would help.

4. Font Size Screwing

The old staple. Easy to do, hard to spot if done right. Your professors are going to request a 12-point font. Go ahead and bump that to 12.5 or 13.

Each half step will add about seven percent or so. My document went from 42 to 48 pages when I bumped it to 13-point.

Again, this one has little in the way of drawbacks. It isn’t going to be spotted with the naked eye unless your professor is already suspicious and compares it directly with 12-point stuff.

5. Punctuation Adjustment

Do you have any idea how many times you use punctuation in a paper? It really is a crazy amount, especially if you know how to use commas and semicolons correctly. This is the sneakiest way to increase your page count. It is almost definitely not going to be detected.

In your document, press CTRL+F, and click “Replace.” Enter a period into the top box, and a period in the bottom “Replace With” box. Highlight the bottom one, click “More” below it, and select “Format” and “Font” on the bottom of the window. In the new window, select a larger font size, at least 16. Then click the “Replace All” button. Repeat this process for other punctuations, including exclamation points, commas, and question marks. Then scroll to the bottom so that the page count can refresh.

This will add as much as thirty percent to your paper length. My document went from 42 to 54 pages. That kind of speaks for itself.

This can have a screwy effect on formatting, however, so make sure that you review your document after you’ve done it. Symptoms like weird, out-of-sync spacing has happened from time to time. If that happens and you don’t address it (by reducing the adjust font size of the punctuation), you’re going to be caught. The professor might not know what you did, but they’ll know you did something.

 

 

For fun, I’m going to apply all of these to the document I’ve been referencing. The Fall of Fort Courage, a 23-page single-spaced document when in Calibri 11-point font with 1-inch margins, leaps to an extraordinary 82 pages after I: A) adjusted the margins to 1.5″ right and 1.5″ bottom, B) changed the font to Courier New, C) increased the overall font size to 13-point, D) bumped the spacing to 2.2, and E) increased the font size of each punctuation to 16-point.

For reference, the double-space length was 42 pages, so odds are you’ll only see about a one-hundred percent length increase if your document is normal and just double-spaced.

Now, that is only when you combine all of these tricks. I really don’t recommend that you do so. If I had handed in a document with all of these applied, it’d be painfully obvious that I had manipulated the formatting.

Furthermore, don’t use all of these tricks in excess. You don’t want to artificially increase your length way beyond the minimum of the assignment. For instance, if you were requested to write a five page paper, don’t write four pages and use all of these tricks to hit eight pages. Do just enough to get to five.

My best advice is this: write as much as you can on the subject. Follow the steps I gave last week if you’re having trouble. Get as close as you possibly can to completing the assignment honestly. Then and only then try some of these tricks.

If you still haven’t hit your page requirement after implementing all of the tips and tricks I’ve given you in these two articles, then that class just isn’t for you, and I’d actually recommend either getting extra lessons from your professor or dropping it. If it’s your major, then… well, you have some thinking to do.

 

 

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