Words count (and the art of editing)
We are often asked how long an application should be and what happens if you write too little or perhaps more commonly too much.
There are a number of scenarios to cover.
The reasons recruiters or admissions tutors ask for a set number of words is often to enable them to get through the volume of applications and also for you to show you can write in a succinct but still understandable manner. Being an effective editor is a good skill to develop.
Postgraduate study personal statement
If a certain amount of words or characters have been specified then you must keep within it. It is very likely the remaining words will be cut off (you may not able to enter them anyway) and your conclusion will be missed which will make the whole statement look odd and unfinished. So plan ahead before writing it all out. If it helps, split the required word count between the beginning, the middle and the end. More help is available via the following link.
Application form questions
The same rules apply, they won’t read beyond the word count and it could make the answer odd if the end is missing. So pay attention to what you want to say and learn how to edit effectively.
The STAR acronym can prove useful when structuring your answer. Divide your answer into 4 clear sections – Situation, Task, Action and Result.
Also look at the question carefully and if it has more than one part make sure you answer all of it. More help via link below.
With CVs then the ideal is often seen as two pages and that generally would be our advice. That amount gives you space to write in a bit of detail but isn’t too onerous for the recruiter.
However always go with what the recruiter asks for – one, two or three pages or even more if they ask for questions to be answered in the text. Here are some general guidelines though about one or even three pages might be acceptable.
One page – Has the employer asked you for this or have you made a personal choice to do this? Be careful though that if its through choice you aren’t missing any details that other candidates writing two can include.
A one page CV would still need to contain the following – Name and personal details, Profile, Education, Employment and Skills, Interests, References. References can be written as ‘available on request’. So a few sections to get across in a page of A4.
It can work well in creative fields where you need to have impact so where you need to include some images and write succinctly.
Three pages – if you have to use three then make sure there is an order to the CV with most important information first. Always help the reader to find the key details. You can always try a ‘skills based’ CV which might work better in making the CV more succinct or even help to order the information well. There is lots more help and advice on how to construct a ‘skill based’ CVs on our website via the link below.
So some good rules to follow:
- Do think about what needs to be said and how much space you have.
- If you have been given guidelines stick to these.
- If they have referred to particular skills in a job description or the course has asked you to provide certain information or reasons then do so.
- Make every word count – think what you are saying and continually think is there a more efficient and effective way of saying it?
- Read through it and makes sure it fits together and makes sense.
- Don’t repeat the same content.
- Don’t include irrelevant detail or be tempted to go off at a tangent.