So, you’ve got a paper due.

It’s due in a couple of hours, but that’s not a big deal. You did some of it already and you’re well rested. You have your coffee beside you. You even paid attention in class, mostly. So, it’s to your growing terror that you realize you have nothing more to write.

Sound familiar? It’s going to happen, sooner or later. You’re going to have a ten page paper and you’ll only have six pages of writing. It’s okay, buddy. You came to the right place.

1. What Not To Do

First, don’t play your teacher for a sucker. Your dog didn’t eat your homework. This is college, amigo; your teachers know exactly what 12.5 font looks like: it looks like a giant advertisement for a C-, that’s what it looks like.

Don’t mess around with long, rambling sentences and titles, either. Teachers know all the formatting tricks and if they can’t cut their way through messy paragraphs, your grade is going to suffer even as your word count improves. Instead, follow my actual helpful tips below.

2. Expand

Let’s say you’ve written everything you know about your specific topic. Let’s also say the paper is about hamburgers. You’ve written about everything you can think of on topic; the toppings, the restaurants, cheeseburgers, bacon, cow-raising, everything. Well, my friend, it’s time to branch out.

Going off topic is a gamble, but, done well, it’ll fluff out a paper without hurting your grade. In any digression that expands your paper, the trick is to sandwich it. So if you wrote about french-fries, you’d talk about hamburgers, then add a whole new page about french-fries, and then quickly tie it back in to your main-topic. There’s a page right there.

3. Argue With Yourself

Let’s say you’ve done this trick and gotten an extra page of fluff in. Now you still need three more. Another of those pages can simply done by arguing with every point you’ve already made.

This, in addition to padding out your essay, will actually improve your grade. An essay should be making a point, so by showing you can consider both sides, you make your arguments sharper while adding a fresh page.

Let’s say your paper says that hamburgers are the world’s most perfect food, as it should. You can add a page critiquing your points: shouldn’t a perfect food be vegetarian, what about health, what about steak? List out counter-arguments as best you can and then defuse them. Your paper will be better for it, and longer, too.

4. Minor Stuff

The minor stuff is to be aware of when you can add a few spare sentences in places, here and there, that, while not interrupting the flow of the piece, can, in a pinch, help you out. < that sentence wasn’t neccesary, or super useful, but it wasn’t wrong either. This whole little paragraph I’m typing right now isn’t good or bad- it’s just there and if you need to do that for your paper, go ahead. Take a minor point, yammer for a bit, and then get back to the good stuff.

 

5. Conclusion and Intro

A good conclusion and an introduction can repeat what you already said, and, because of that, it’s a prime place to gain extra words. Have a comprehensive intro and, in your conclusion, go point-by-point reiterating your previous points: for me, that would include a reminder about how one should avoid the silly, easy-to-notice gimmicks other sites recommend, that you can (and should) expand your points, argue with them for extra space, and not overlook any potential for a paragraph, no matter how minor the point. Did you notice how this concluding paragraph itself covered a whole extra paragraph without saying anything new? Do the same thing yourself and write a good conclusion and introduction.