How to Stretch Your 1 Page Essay to Fill 5 Pages

Just a sample for youTeachers are incredibly fond of assigning arbitrary lengths to their essay requirements. Generally, this is because the teacher has no idea what the essay should be about, so they figure if it is at least x pages, it must be deep. Unfortunately, this is why many of us have pulled all-nighters trying to “Analyze the fish motif in Dr. Seuss’ ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish’” for twenty double-spaced pages.

Rarely, your paper will actually exceed the length requirement. Since “rarely,” in this case, means less often than the weatherman gets the weather right, you won’t be plagued by this problem. No, the real issue is expanding too-short papers by 25%, 50%, or even 5,000%.

Technical Stuff

Sure, your paper is supposed to be “double spaced.” But what does that actually mean? “Double what?” Well, lucky for you, the teacher probably didn’t specify 12pt as a space. Thus, you can simply expand your spacing by any number, as long as it is “double” something. Personally, I’d just pick up a double cheeseburger at your fast food obesity center of choice and make sure that it can fit easily between the lines of your paper.

Another lesser-known and subtler method is something called “font spacing.” On many computers, you can go to “format,” then “font,” then “character spacing,” then “space exploration,” and then “NASA Apollo missions.” Here, you can actually change the spaces between each letter. So, since your teacher wants the paper double spaced, just expand the font by a factor of 2. As a courtesy, you could pencil in dotted lines between each letter of the same word, but that’s going above and beyond.

Embellish Your Introduction

The introduction of any short paper is your friend. Really, all the teacher specifies is that the introduction should “draw the reader into the paper with an engaging hook.”

The first step is obviously to “draw” a very “engaging hook.” If you have Internet access, just Google something like “ornate fish hook” for inspiration. Again, if you like to go above and beyond, use media other than pencil, like charcoal, pastel, or glued-in-place broccoli sprouts.

After you’ve finished your drawing, which should really take up at least half a page, you start the written introduction. Many teachers appreciate and expect any essay to start with a quote, so make this as long as possible. That involves two things. Initially, find the longest quote possible. If a book was ever written that pertains to your essay, excerpt at least two chapters.

The other aspect of this is to make your context blurb as long as possible. Rather than writing “wrote Bob McBob, an expert on Dr. Seuss fishies,” write “elegantly stated Bob—last name McBob—in his book, ‘Dr. Seuss’ Influence on Marine Biology, Volume 2,’ (penned in the years 1843 and 1844, and copyrighted in 1845); Mr. McBob is a renowned expert in the many various multifarious varieties of the numerous plentiful fish present, illustrated, or implied in the fantastic children’s masterpieces of Dr. Seuss.”

The Conclusion

You’ve restated your thesis. You’ve listed your single body paragraph. And you’ve nobly attempted to explain why your essay matters. But compared to the rest of your over-spaced, adjectives-on-steroids paper, your conclusion looks like your teenage brain: underdeveloped, underperforming, and all-around generally useless.

The easiest part of the conclusion to improve is your final statement. You need to convey why the reader should care about your essay, and in doing so you can use a number of tactic straight out of modern advertising and politics.

Let’s say you’ve currently got something like: “Thus, we all have blue fish in our lives; the important thing is that we recognize them and use them to our advantage.” Sure, it makes sense, and you used a semi-colon for something other than a winky face, which always gets points with the teachers, but it’s not very compelling.

Instead, you might go with something like: “Wouldn’t you just love to drive a shiny new car with $0 owed for the first 95 years? Well, unless you act now, this country’s economy, values, morals, ethics, and smiling people will all be destroyed, forever. But don’t despair: you, too, can someday be as cool as a professional driver on a closed course in front of a green screen. So, recognize those blue fish in your life, and use them to your advantage.” Boom. If your reader doesn’t immediately drop your paper and start searching for blue-colored fish, it’s ‘cause they are stuck trying to figure out if their children would have to pay for the car, or only their grandchildren, not because your conclusion wasn’t compelling.

Whether you fool around with the spacing, beef up your introduction, or add emphasis to your conclusion, making that paper longer is simply not that hard. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go finish typing up the entire second act of “Macbeth” and transition/tie it into the effects of the transcontinental railroad.

If you’re not too concerned about those essays, you’re probably caught up with trying to understand just how you will survive for the next three months on less total sleep than you got the entire winter break. In that case, you might check out “3 Tips for Getting Enough Sleep to Survive Until the Next Long Break,” written for you at this time last year.

The 3 Major Problems with Multiple Choice Tests

If you’ve ever taken a multiple choice, fill-in-the-bubbles test, then you know that you MUST use a #2 pencil to fill in your answers. If you’ve never taken such a test, congratulations: you probably live on one of those miniscule islands in the Caribbean that’s so small that if you accidentally have too much for dinner, the whole island sinks. You’ve never had to go through the mentally scarring experience of such a test. Plus, you probably have a nice tan.

My guess is that most of you have dealt with a multiple choice test, or MC test. Contrary to popular belief, MC test doesn’t stand for multiple choice test, but rather, Malicious Cruel test.

This acronym has nothing to do with the content of the test itself. You could be tested on the names of common household appliances, such as “toaster,” “sink,” and “plutonium centrifuge,” and still miss over half of the questions purely due to the format of the test.

The #2 Pencil

Let’s think about this for a second. You are handed a blank answer form. Then, you shade in certain bubbles on the answer form. How dumb does a scanning machine have to be to be unable to tell the difference between a blank form and a filled in form? Why is it that the machine only detects a #2 pencil?

Humans certainly can’t tell the difference between a #2 pencil and a #1.5 pencil. Who thought this was an important thing to incorporate into these machines?

Plus, when it comes down to it, nobody knows what #2 stands for. I’d guess that it probably indicates that these pencils were made for the 2nd best scanning machines. The best scanning machines could handle pencils, pens, and crayons, but we use the 2nd best machines, and thus, the #2.

Sensitive Machines

Even if you have a #2 pencil, that’s not always enough. If you can’t shade in the bubble itself to the specifications of a temperamental machine, then you will still get the wrong answer. This means you cannot mark your answers lightly, incompletely, with a scribble, with a bull’s-eye design, with imperfect uniformity, halfheartedly, unenthusiastically, or even apathetically. If you are not fully enthused when marking in your answers darkly, then you are certain to fail the test.

Erased Answers

The other problem with the bubbles is erased marks. Again, we can see that the machines are stupider than the humans*. On a written math test, if you wrote “x=4,” then erased the 4 so that you could only faintly make it out, and then wrote a much darker “5” in that same space, your teacher would assume that you meant “x=5.”

*I will probably be killed by a robot in 2040 for that statement.

For scantron machines, however, this simply blows their minds. If you present it with a very light, erased bubble, and a very dark bubble, the machine assumes that you think there were two correct answers. Thus, you get the question wrong.

Thankfully, the failure to recognize erased marks is only a recent development. Otherwise, well, just imagine the historical implications. “The Supreme Court ruled today, after carefully examining the constitution under a magnifying glass, that due to some obscure erased marks, citizens only have a right to ‘bare’ arms, that is, to wear tank tops or other sleeveless garments.”

With all of these problems, one would think that teens would have revolted against MC tests by now. Even with all of these issues, however, that line of thinking is incorrect: teens would never, ever do anything to get rid of MC tests.

Why? Because even though you have to bubble in your answers using more care than a brain surgeon, multiple-choice tests allow for guessing. On a history test, you may have no idea when Franklin Pierce was president. On a writing test, you might take a hilariously bad guess, such as “from 1414-1418.” But on a multiple-choice test, you automatically have a 1 in 4 (or 5) chance of getting the answer correct! Heck, you could mark “D” every time, and have a solid shot at getting a D!

So, even with all of their shortcomings, we should all be thankful for Malicious Cruel tests. I mean, at least our education system, which invented these tests, doesn’t have any actual influence over the future of our country, right?

As the impending doom of the so-called “fiscal cliff” approaches, you might be worried that our government is failing to do its duties. One possible solution would be to simply replace every official with a teacher, an idea explored in “If Teachers Ran the US Federal Government…“, a post published this time last year.

Down With School Library Fines

Just a pile of dusty booksWithout it, our country would be vastly different. Everyone values it. Having it gives us all a sense of security. No, I’m not talking about the TSA; I’m talking about money.

To be politically correct, I probably shouldn’t talk about money. The only politically sensitive thing to say about money is “I believe that everyone should have money, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, grade point average, or the number of showers you take a month.”

So, let’s change the subject to school libraries. School libraries are wonderful, aren’t they? You’ve created loads of great memories in them over your school career: getting yelled at for talking too loudly, getting shouted at for eating in the library, getting told off for checking Facebook on the library computer, and getting ejected for trying to back flip over a small bookshelf.

Hold on. I’m forgetting the reason no one uses school libraries: they offer books. These days, if you want something to read you can power up a computer, smartphone, e-reader, or electric toothbrush. The only use anyone has for the books at the school library occurs in English class.

It happens about once a month: your severely strict English teacher will hup-two-three-four your class to library, where you will check out the book of the month. These books all have a standard, “ooh-look-at-the-symbolism” title formula that goes “The [noun].” The Red Badge of Courage, The Crucible, The Scarlet Letter, and The Kite Runner are only a few examples.

While you wait in the class line, your teacher will pace around your class, herding you all like a hyperactive sheep dog on caffeine. But you don’t even notice that. Why? Because you are too busy worrying about library fines.

Yes, I said it: school library fines, the newest method of funding schools, 25¢ at a time. It is guaranteed that you have accrued them, because your English teacher told you herself that you should keep the books for the entire semester so you can review them for your final.

Usually, your exchange with the librarian goes something like this:

[Setting: school library. Students are attempting to check out the newest required novel during English class.]

Librarian: Student ID number?

Student [Male]: [Frantically trying to think of a number that wouldn’t have fines attached to it] Negative Fifteen.

Librarian: There are no negative student ID numbers.

Student: Oh, my bad. I meant to say ninety-fifteen. Like 9-0-1-5.

Librarian: Student ID numbers are 6 numbers. Do you remember yours or not?

Student: Maybe it is ninety ninety fifteen?

Librarian: Are you Suzy LeChanson?

Male Student: Yeah…uh…my parents like the name and didn’t want to come up with a new one when I turned out to be a boy. So my friends call me Sooz.

Librarian [skeptical]: Really.

Male Student: Yep.

Librarian: Well, okay Sooz. I’m sorry to inform you that you have $13 in library fines from your overdue books.

Male Student: [Under breath] Wow, how did Suzy only get $13 in fines? I must have like $34 by now…[To the librarian] Okay, so?

Librarian: Well, I can’t check out The Symbolic Title to you until you’ve paid your fines.

Student: Okay, fine. Here’s the money [pulling out wallet]. It was my lunch money for the week, but hey, who needs cafeteria food when you can feast on literary masterpieces like The Symbolic Title?

Librarian: True, very true. Oh, I’m sorry, but I can’t accept your money; you’ll need to pay the bookkeeper down in the office.

Student: Sure, whatevs. Now can I check out the book?

Librarian: Nope. You can’t check anything out if you have over $10 in fines.

Student: But I’ll need it for class right now. My whole class is here getting the book.

Librarian: Sorry. I sent away three others because of fines as well.

Student: The only reason we have fines is because of English class, anyways. Our teacher makes us keep the books past the due dates.

Librarian: That’s not my fault. You can always renew the book.

Student: No, because we don’t know how to do so and we won’t remember to.

Librarian: I honestly don’t know how to renew books either. They never taught me anything when I took the job.

Student: Okay, look, I’ll give [furtively glancing around] an extra two dollars if you let me check out this book.

Librarian: I can’t do that. That would be corruption.

Student: We are talking about a book and thirteen dollars! You are a school librarian, not a politician!

Librarian: Exactly. If I were a politician I would be allowed to be corrupt so I could take your money.

Teacher [cutting in]: Mark, check out the book and move on. You are holding up the line!

Librarian: Hey, I thought you said your name was Sooz!

Student: It is. Uh…there is just an error on the attendance sheet so my teachers call me Mark; it is my middle name.

Librarian: Oh. Well, I can’t check this book out to you, Sooz.

Teacher [From across the room]: Hurry up, Mark! You are taking way too long!

Librarian: SHHHHHHHshsshshshshsshhhhh ! THIS IS A LIBRARY!

Teacher: [Whispering] Sorry. [Yelling] MARK HURRY UP NOW!

Librarian: Oh whatever. Sooz, we are done here. Please leave.

Student: Please please please I need this book to do the homework tonight. Just let me check it out. What could happen?

Librarian: I could lose my job. Absolutely not.

Student: I will wash your car…or your bike?…or I will walk your pets and repaint your house. [Eyes tearing up]. Please.

Librarian: I walk to school. And I have a pet bird.


Student: One more second!

Librarian: SHHHshshshshhh! Sooz, you are banned from the library for a week for being loud.

Student: Then how am I supposed to check out The Symbolic Title?

Librarian: I don’t know.


Librarian: SHHHHSsshhshshhshhhhhshshshshshshshshhshshshhshshhshsh! Huuuuuuhnh! [a huge intake of breath] SHHhhhhhhHHHHHhhhhshshshHSHHSHSH…[while librarian is zealously shushing, eyes closed and head throw back, Student/Mark/Sooz grabs a copy of the book he needs and runs for the door]…hshshshsHSHSHSHSHSH!

[As Mark reaches the door, he sets off the “library book that wasn’t properly checked out” alarm, causing red lights to flash in the library. The doors automatically lock in front of him. He turns around only to see the teacher menacingly walking towards him. Determined, he kicks out the glass in the door and runs away.

The second he steps off school grounds with the stolen book he will have committed a class 2 felony, but he doesn’t know that nor care. Eventually, after a 3 week, multi-jurisdictional manhunt, the Feds will bring Mark in and challenge him with one count of stealing library books, one count of identity fraud (on Suzy’s behalf), and one count of not paying his library fines. He will be convicted on all counts.

He would have spent the next six months in jail, but upon learning that the juvenile detention facility had a library, his brain snapped. So, he served his time in a cell with padded walls instead.]

The next time you go to a school library to check out a book with your class, make sure all of your fines are paid. At the very least, make sure you have the student ID number of someone with no fines. Otherwise, you’ll probably end up just like Susy “Mark” LeChanson.

It would help if you only racked up imaginary library fines. Sounds impossible? Not quite, as explained in “Math Lesson #i:Imaginary Numbers,” published this time last year. Think imaginary numbers sound ludicrous? So do we.

The Best Excuses for When Your Phone Goes Off In Class

Your dog is calling.It’s going to happen. It’s inevitable. There’s no avoiding it. No, I’m not talking about the eventual election of Honey Boo Boo as our nation’s 236th president. I’m talking about your phone going off in class.

No big deal, right? Society is so used to cell phones that it’s now unusual to see a four-year old holding a banana up to his ear; there’s no need, since he’s already got a cell.

Sure, it can be embarrassing to have your phone buzz, beep, ding, or play awful music (which, to be fair, sounded good the first six thousand times the phone rang) during a conversation. But you’ll just apologize, silence the phone, and get on with life, right? YOLO: You Only Let it ring Once.

Wrong. You can’t allow your phone to make any indication it exists. Teachers’ cell phone policies these days range from confiscating it for a day to selling it on Craigslist. It’s even worse in science class: perhaps your teacher will use it to demonstrate the corrosive properties of Hydrochloric Acid, or to show an object free-falling from three stories up.

Obviously, you can’t allow your teachers to get their hands on the only thing connecting you to your life-sustaining social media accounts for most of the day. Without these, you’ll experience symptoms of social media withdrawal, such as tremors, headaches, and, in extreme cases, seizures, until you can get to a computer.

Someday, though, it’s inevitable that your phone goes off during class. Maybe you forgot to silence it, or turn off the app notifications for all 4,355 of your apps. Most experts agree that the logical next step is to make an excuse, in the hopes that your teacher won’t confiscate it. Excuses you’ve probably heard/used have included:

  • Sorry, I forgot to silence it this morning.
  • I could’ve sworn I told my mom not to call me during school hours, ha ha.
  • When I let my friend borrow my phone they must not have turned the sound back off.
  • Oops, that’s my weekend alarm going off. My bad.
  • I just got a new phone and haven’t learned how it works yet, ha ha.
  • My dad was going to call me when my dog got out of surgery.
  • I was just on the phone with my Grandma and must have forgotten to turn it back off.

Now, these are all pretty basic. They all appeal to a teacher’s sense of forgiveness. Since, however, schools no longer hire teachers with that sense, these often won’t work unless you are a terrific actor or have great puppy eyes.

Rather than using one of these unbelievable lines, I suggest you instead employ one of these updated excuses:

  • When I let my dog borrow my phone he must not have turned the sound back off.
  • Sorry, I forgot to silence my friend this morning.
  • I was just on the phone with my weekend alarm and must have forgotten to turn it back off. My bad.
  • Oops, that’s my Grandma going off.
  • My mom just got a new phone and hasn’t learned how it works yet, ha ha.
  • My dad was going to call me to tell me to turn the sound off.

And of course we won’t leave you without giving you the 100% success rate, one-time only, do-or-die, perfect excuse for those times when your teacher is planning to send your phone to the graveyard:

Sorry, I was just on the phone with my mom. I could’ve sworn I told her not to call my Grandma during school hours. Right before class I let my friend borrow my phone to call my dog. After they finished talking, I realized I forgot to turn my weekend alarm off, but before I could do that my dad called to let me know that my new phone just got out of surgery. So I was planning to turn the sound off but I forgot to, ha ha.

Keep these with you. Study them. Commit them to memory. They will save your phone someday; I just know it.

I’d love to keep talking about crazed teachers and confiscated cell phones, but I’ve got to go check to make sure I removed the sound chip and vibrator from the inside of my phone for tomorrow.

Last year at this time we were concerned with something a little more important to your life: “The Periodic Table of the Elements and You!” One of our more popular posts, this explains exactly why the periodic table has major problems with popularity.