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900 Words Is How Many Paragraphs Does An Essay

Although writing an essay is daunting for many people, it can be pretty straight-forward. This page is a general recipe for constructing an essay, not just in philosophy, but in most other humanities disciplines (such as English, History, Religious Studies, etc.) and perhaps the social sciences. It should be an appropriate guide for writing at the middle school, high school, and lower college levels. The typical assignment I have in mind will be an argumentative essay, in which you argue for something, even if just an interpretation of someone an author’s work.

Note that what I provide here are only general guidelines. Be sure to check whether your instructor has different ones. If your instructor has not given clear guidelines, then these should suffice, since they are pretty standard.

Note: If you need help figuring out how to write an essay in philosophy specifically and at the college level, see my “Writing in Philosophy.” If you want to know how I evaluate students on a paper assignment, see my “Grading Rubric for Paper Assignments.”

Table of Contents:

  1. Format
  2. Essay Structure
  3. General Writing Tips
  4. Style & Punctuation
  5. Grammatical Errors
  6. Humorous Writing Guidelines
  7. Citations & References
  8. Relevant Links

1. Format

  • Typed – use a word processor (such as Microsoft Word) on a computer.
  • Spacing – the space between lines on the page is typically double-space. However, it may be changing. (I now prefer single-spaced myself.)
  • Font size – standard size of the text is usually 12-point.
  • Font style – standard font, such as Times New Roman.

2. Essay Structure

The first thing to notice is that the basic form of an essay is quite logical. Let’s look at the standard structure of an essay starting with the most general. You can divide your paper into three main sections:

1. Introduction

For the introduction section, you will need to do two things: introduce your topic and provide a thesis statement. Typically, these two tasks should be accomplished using only one paragraph for a short paper, but can be longer for longer papers.

First, introduce your topic. The introductory paragraph(s) should briefly orient the reader to the topic and provide a conceptual map of the rest of the paper.

Second, provide a thesis statement.

Your thesis statement is the main point of your paper and should address the paper topic assigned by your instructor.

Make sure your thesis statement is clear, specific, declarative, and on-topic. You should be able to provide the thesis statement in one or two sentences (most instructors prefer one, concise sentence) for a fairly short paper (about 1-8 pages). It is usually best stated at the end of your introduction section (the end of the first paragraph if your introduction section is only a single paragraph in length).

2. Body

The body section should consist of at least several paragraphs where you will provide support for your thesis statement in the form of reasons, evidence, arguments, justification, and so on. That is, you have something you want to communicate or argue for (your thesis) and here is your chance to explain it in detail, support it, and defend it.

Each paragraph in the body section should have a topic sentence and, perhaps, a transition sentence. The topic sentence is the particular point you are trying to make in the paragraph. It’s sort of like a mini-thesis statement. It should usually be the first sentence of the paragraph, though in some cases it is appropriate to be the second sentence. A transition sentence is a sentence that helps link the points of each paragraph together by making a smooth transition from the previous paragraph. It can be done in the first sentence of the new paragraph or the last sentence of the previous one. A good way to tie all the points together throughout the body section is to have them all clearly state how they support the thesis statement. That way it is obvious that all of your paragraphs tie together. Note that the first sentence of the paragraph may satisfy both goals. That is, you may have a topic sentence that also serves to transition well. Another option is to have a transition sentence first and then a separate topic sentence following it.

3. Summary

The summary section (often misleadingly called a “conclusion”) is a short recap of what you have said in the essay. You might want to provide a slightly different version of your thesis statement as the first sentence of this paragraph and then provide a few sentences that sum up what the body section said in support of the thesis statement. The summary section should be only one paragraph long for a short paper, but can be longer for longer papers. (Some instructors, like me, even think that summary sections are unnecessary for short papers.)

Note:  It’s a good idea to put these sections titles in as headings in your paper to organize and break things up for yourself and your reader. If your instructor doesn’t want headings in your paper, just take them out before you print it to turn it in. It is also helpful for long papers to put in additional headings, perhaps even sub-headings, to break up the body section (such as “First Argument,” “Second Argument,” and so on).

3. General Writing Tips

1. Think & Discuss

Familiarize yourself with the material before you begin writing. You won’t be able to write much if you don’t have anything to put on the page. Think about your paper topic as soon as you get the paper assignment prompt from your instructor. This can be facilitated in a number of ways. A great way is to discuss the issue with your instructor or teaching assistant. You can even try talking about it to a friend or family member.

2. Rough Drafts & Editing

Write rough drafts ahead of time. For most people, writing their rough ideas down as rough drafts helps them see their ideas more clearly than even thinking about them. Then take a break from the essay (this usually requires at least a half, if not full, day). After the lengthy break (for example, the next day), go back and edit more. Repeat this process as necessary until finished. (This is why it is important to start working on your essay far in advance!)

Also, don’t be afraid to just type without thinking too much about whether it’s any good. You can always go back and edit it. Many people find it best to just sit down and write a lot without much reflection. Just make sure you have enough time to go back and edit.

3. Comments/Review

Once you have a final draft ready, have someone read it to look for errors and provide feedback. Many instructors encourage students to turn in early drafts to them for comments. Just be sure to check and see if your instructor allows you to do so.

4. Style & Punctuation

Overall, the paper should demonstrate a command of the writing process and the author’s care in crafting it. Avoid errors of spelling, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, verb tense, and vocabulary, such as the following:

  1. Put punctuation inside quotations (for American writing). If you put something in quotations that is immediately followed by punctuation (such as commas or colons), then put the punctuation mark inside the last quotation mark.
    Correct: John Doe claims that, “Britney Spears is a tool.”
    Incorrect: John Doe claims that, “Britney Spears is a tool”.
    Another example: “I’m in love with Space Ghost,” Bjork proclaimed.
    (Note: I know this rule doesn’t seem right. The British style of writing has the punctuation outside the quotation marks, which makes more sense. However, the American style requires that you write it the other way.)
  2. Put parenthetical citations outside of quotations.
    Correct: “Blah, blah, blah, this is a quote” (Author 32).
    Incorrect: “Blah, blah, blah, this is a quote (Author 32).”
  3. Introduce quotes. Introduce quotes, preferably by acknowledging who is saying it.
    Example: In the article “War Without End,” John Doe says, “…blah, blah, and blah” (36).
    Notice the three dots in the quote (…), which is called an elipses. You’re supposed to put those in when you are not quoting the whole sentence. It denotes that something came before (or after) the part of the sentence you are quoting.
  4. Generally, spell out numbers. For example, write ‘three,’ not ‘3.’ Exceptions can be made for larger numbers, like 1089, especially when you are simply making reference to a numeral.
  5. Avoid informal abbreviations and notations. For example, don’t write ‘&’ for ‘and’ or ‘b/c’ for ‘because.’ However, there are notations and abbreviations that are conventions in professional writing; for example: ‘e.g.’ is often used for ‘for example’ and ‘etc.’ for ‘et cetera’ and ‘p.’ for ‘page.’ However, for this last one, note that it is only used in citing sources or references, not in other sentences. So, for example, don’t write “The p. had many words of wisdom written on it.”
  6. Use versus mention. In general, when you mention (or talk about) rather than use a word you should put quotes (single or double) around the word. This is not necessary when you use a word.
    Incorrect: John contains the letter h.
    Correct: ‘John’ contains the letter ‘h.’
    (Note: Some people simply italicize the word to indicate mention. I follow this convention here sometimes so that it is easier to read. However, it can get confused with emphasis, which is what italics are more commonly used for. Also, the standard for use-mention indication is not exactly clear. Most people use quotes and use single quotes for British style and double quotes for American style. I tend to use single quotes just to distinguish them from quoting what someone has said.)
  7. Write well and consider your reader! Good writing keeps the reader’s perspective in mind. It takes work to read someone’s ideas. You owe it to your readers to explain your ideas clearly and ideally in a pleasing manner. To become a better writer in terms of style, read widely and find good writers to emulate (some excellent non-fiction writers that come to mind: Paul Bloom, Rebecca Goldstein, and Steven Pinker).
  8. Recognize the Flexibility of Writing Rules. You’ll notice that skilled writers don’t always follow all the “rules” for writing. They know that the rules are somewhat flexible and can even be explicitly broken for good effect at times. You might be able to get away with the same, but it’s good to practice working well within them for graded papers!

5. Common Grammatical Errors to Avoid

  1. Misusing i.e. and e.g.Do not confuse these two. They do not mean the same thing!
    i.e. = that is
    e.g. = for example
    (Many people think that ‘i.e’ stands for ‘in example.’ That is false. Both are abbreviations for two different latin phrases.)
  2. Using ‘if’ when you should use ‘whether’.
    Incorrect: I do not know if this is true.
    Correct: I do not know whether this is true.
    Correct: If this is true, then you are wrong.
  3. Confusing ‘there’ with ‘their.’ ‘Their’ indicates possession, ‘there’ does not.
    Incorrect: There problem was a lack of courage.
    Correct: Their problem was a lack of courage.
    Incorrect: Their are a lot of problems here.
    Correct: There are a lot of problems here.
  4. Misconnecting verbs.
    Incorrect: We should try and change the law.
    Correct: We should try to change the law.
  5. Letting your accent get in the way of things.
    Incorrect: Mind and brain are one in the same thing.
    Correct: Mind and brain are one and the same thing.
    Incorrect: Socrates should of fought.
    Correct: Socrates should have fought.
  6. Improper form of the plural possessive of names.
    Incorrect: Descarte’s problem was ….
    Incorrect: Descartes problem was….
    Correct: Descartes’ problem was….
    Correct: Descartes’s problem was….
    (Note: Either of the last two is acceptable only for names ending in ‘s’ like ‘Descartes’ or ‘Jesus.’ Otherwise, always go with the last example–i.e., add an apostrophe and an ‘s.’ The convention is usaully to not add an extra ‘s’ for old names, such as ‘Descartes’ and ‘Jesus.’ So, to say that this is the book that Rawls owns, people often write: “This is Rawls’s book.”)
  7. Improper use of semi-colons.
    Incorrect: The following will be on the test; Locke, Hume, Parfit.
    Incorrect: Although there is no right answer; there are many wrong answers.
    Correct: There is no right answer; there are many wrong answers.
    (The Rule: Use a semi-colon only where you could use a period instead. In other words, a semi-colon must join two clauses that could stand by themselves as complete sentences. The semi-colin is just used to indicate that the two sentences are connected or intimately related.)
  8. Confusing ‘then’ and ‘than’.
    Incorrect: If this is true, than I’m a fool.
    Incorrect: I am more of a fool then you are.
    Correct: If this is true, then I’m a fool.
    Correct: I am more of a fool than you are.
  9. Its versus it’s.
    Incorrect: Its easy to make this mistake.
    Incorrect: It’s pages are crumbling.
    Correct: It’s easy to make this mistake.
    Correct: Its pages are crumbling.

(Note: partly adapted from Pasnau’s Top 10 Writing Errors)

6. Humorous Writing Guidelines

  1. Be more or less specific.
  2. Use not bad grammars.
  3. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  4. Don’t use no double negatives.
  5. Avoid tumbling off the cliff of triteness into the dark abyss of overused metaphors.
  6. Take care that your verb and your subject is in agreement.
  7. No sentence fragments.
  8. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
  9. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  10. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place.
  11. Avoid colloquial stuff, like totally.
  12. Avoid those run-on sentences you know the ones they stop and then start again they should be separated with semicolons.
  13. The passive voice should be used infrequently.
  14. And avoid starting sentences with a conjunction.
  15. Excessive use of exclamation points can be disastrous!!!!
  16. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement.
  17. Stamp out and eliminate redundancy because, if you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing, so reread your work and improve it by editing out the repetition you noticed during the rereading.
  18. It’s incumbent on one to employ the vernacular and eschew archaisms.
  19. It’s not O.K. to use ampersands & informal abbreviations.
  20. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are usually (but not always) an obstacle for readers (and make it harder on readers even if you’re being careful).

(author unkown)

7. Citations & References

If you are doing an essay that involves researching or you quote anyone in your essay, then you need to cite your sources. There are many different formalized styles for citing sources. For example: MLA (Modern Language Association), Chicago (Turabian), APA (American Psychological Association), and more. The most standard for English papers is MLA. You can buy the official books on how to properly cite sources according to certain styles, but you can also find a lot of that information on the Internet.

Here are a few Internet resources for citation styles:

8. Relevant Links

There is no firm rule that says an essay needs to have a set number of paragraphs, but an essay must be a minimum of three paragraphs. There are a lot of people who say an essay should be five paragraphs, but it’s an extremely limiting rule, and unless you’ve been instructed to write a five paragraph essay, there’s no reason to stick to it.

As a rule, you’ll write your essay in three main parts. First, you’ll introduce your topic to your reader. Next, you will have body text in which you discuss the topic in more detail, and finally, you’ll have a conclusion that tells your reader what you were able to see after looking into the facts or thinking through the topic.

In its simplest form, an essay can consist of three paragraphs with one paragraph being devoted to each section. Proponents of the five paragraph essay say that the body text should consist of three paragraphs, but in reality, it’s fine to write more or fewer paragraphs in this section.

Guessing How Many Paragraphs Before You Begin

This is a rule of thumb, which means it won’t always work quite that way, but it’s handy all the same. In academic work, your paragraphs are likely to be a bit longer than most of the ones you see in this blog post. On average, there are usually 100 to 200 words in a paragraph. So if you’d like a guesstimate, you can assume that a 1,000-word essay will have between five and ten paragraphs.

What Points Do You Have to Cover?

Another, less limiting and more accurate way to work out how many paragraphs you need to cover your topic is to look at the main points you have to cover in the body text. A paragraph contains all the ideas that support or explain a single concept.

When you are planning your essay, you will think of or research the main elements that are needed in the body text. It would be safe to assume you need at least one paragraph for each of these. Of course, if there is a lot of information to cover in order to explore each area, you may need more.

For example, if you are writing an essay on childhood development and exposure to technology, you will want to look into the physical, psychological and cognitive developmental effects of tech on kids. When you research this topic, you will find that there are contrasting points of view and researchers have identified several physical, developmental, and psychological effects of technology use in children.

Assuming five psychological effects have been identified, you can assume you’ll need to write five paragraphs if you are going to write a relatively in-depth essay. But if both those who say technology is bad for kids and those who say it can be good have done a great deal of work on the sub-topic, you might want to make that ten paragraphs so that you can cover both sides of the argument and look into how earlier authors reached their conclusions.

Of course, if you have been set a relatively short word limit, you may not be able to go in-depth at all, in which case a paragraph for each of the main sub-topics (psychology, physical development, and cognitive development) will likely be adequate.

Essay Content Is More Important Than the Number of Paragraphs

Ultimately, your essay will be evaluated on the information you present, not on the number of paragraphs in the essay. Early in your academic life, teachers and lecturers may give you both a structure for your essay and a guideline on how long each part of the essay should be. I have seen essay instructions say how many marks are allocated for each section, and my trick is to take the total word count and allocate a percentage of words to each section based on the percentage of marks you can get for it. After all, if the teacher is allocating 80 marks for content in total and you can see 50% of the mark relates to a certain part of the essay, then 50% of your essay’s words should be devoted to that section.

Sometimes, you’ll just be given a topic and told to air your opinion. This gives you more freedom, but it’s a tad more difficult. The research will show you how many angles you should look at, and it’ll help you to find information that both supports and contradicts your point of view. To make a strong argument, you need to look at both supporting and contradictory information.

To avoid getting tangled up in one aspect of the discussion, you’ll have to decide how long it should be. If it’s the most important aspect informing your conclusion, you can spend a little more time (and words) on that particular point. It could run into several paragraphs rather than just one or two.

Always Remember the Purpose of Paragraphs

Paragraphs structure information into sub-topics, and they make your work easier to read and understand thanks to the structure they provide. With careful advance planning, you’ll be able to work out more or less how many paragraphs you need to complete your essay.

How many paragraphs is…

For those looking for a general rule-of-thumb, below are some estimates on the number of paragraphs there would be in an essay of different lengths based on an average length of 150 words per paragraph. Of course, the number of paragraphs for your essay will depend on many different factors. You can use the following information for a general reference, but don’t take these numbers as literal..

Basic Essay Word to Paragraphs Conversions

  • A 100 word essay is 3 paragraph. (minimum for an essay)
  • A 200 word essay is 3 paragraphs. (minimum for an essay)
  • A 250 word essay is 3 paragraphs. (minimum for an essay)
  • A 300 word essay is 3 paragraphs. (minimum for an essay)
  • A 400 word essay is 3 paragraphs. (minimum for an essay)
  • A 500 word essay is 3 to 4 paragraphs.
  • A 600 word essay is 4 paragraphs.
  • A 700 word essay is 4 to 5 paragraphs.
  • A 750 word essay is 5 paragraphs.
  • A 800 word essay is 5 to 6 paragraphs.
  • A 900 word essay is 6 paragraphs.
  • A 1,000 word essay is 6 to 7 paragraphs.
  • A 1,250 word essay is 8 to 9 paragraphs.
  • A 1,500 word essay is 10 paragraphs.
  • A 1,750 word essay is 11 to 12 paragraphs.
  • A 2,000 word essay is 13 to 14 paragraphs.
  • A 2,500 word essay is 16 to 17 paragraphs.
  • A 3,000 word essay is 20 paragraphs.
  • A 4,000 word essay is 26 to 27 paragraphs.
  • A 5,000 word essay is 33 to 34 paragraphs.
  • A 6,000 word essay is 40 paragraphs.
  • A 7,000 word essay is 46 to 37 paragraphs.
  • A 7,500 word essay is 50 paragraphs.
  • A 8,000 word essay is 53 to 54 paragraphs.
  • A 9,000 word essay is 60 paragraphs.
  • A 10,000 word essay is 66 to 67 paragraphs.

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