Teachers 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%.
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.”
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.