One of the reasons I’ve been a little quieter on here than usual is because I’ve been devoting most of my efforts to the first Ergonomics module assignment. The deadline passed a little earlier on today and I did manage to submit it several hours beforehand, but it was a very, very long weekend making sure that I had something to hand in.
From my perspective, a large proportion of the effort I needed to put in seemed to be spent on getting the assignment under the word count limit. I knew I was in trouble when half of the assignment had taken all of the allowance, but my first completed draft weighed in at a massive 3,500 words – a *mere* 1,000 over the limit.
Chatting online, it seemed that fellow students also found the word limit challenging, so here’s some of our collective wisdom about tackling this problem.
- Go back and read the question again once the first draft is finished. This should help to eliminate whole paragraphs that are not going to score as highly as other things and better still, eliminate things that aren’t going to score any marks at all. I think I probably managed to remove around 600 words of flab from the assignment that way.
- Revise paragraph and sentence construction to make them as simple as possible. On first drafts I never seem to use one word when I can use ten! Finding better ways to write things, by shortening long, rambling sentences with too many ‘ands’, ‘buts’ and ‘alsos’ helped me to remove another 250 words.
- Eliminate duplicate arguments. For example, I’d written in two different places about the utility of having warning tones combined with visual cues. Slightly re-wording and re-ordering my argument saved me another 50 words.
Which left me a seemingly intractable 100 words over the limit. These were finally culled by a number of techniques:
- If you can argue a point using a single in-text reference rather than two or three, then that’s a few more words saved. However, I always like to make sure that if I do cull a multiple reference I’m still using the same source somewhere else. After all, there are marks to be had for demonstrating wide reading.
- Using acronyms (provided you’ve already defined them) can also help. For example, Autonomous Cruise Control shortened very nicely to ACC and saved me two words every time I used it!
The result of all of this effort? Success!! I somehow managed to scrape in two words under the limit!
But of course, all of the effort spent in trimming down this assignment will be of little use if I’ve not interpreted the question correctly. I’m not feeling as confident as usual about this assignment if I’m being honest. However, there’s no time to dwell on what might have been as the second module assignment is due on 16th June.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how to stay within the word count – and I’m sure my fellow distance learners would too! There’s a nice big comment box below these ramblings waiting for your wisdom …
This article was originally written for the University of Leicester Student Blogs, 12th May 2014.