Word count - editing hell!

posted
17-Aug-10, 11:49
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for PrettyPollicy
posted about 9 years ago
Hi all,

Ok, hell's maybe a slight exaggeration, but at least I got your attention! I'm facing the last couple of weeks of dissertation writing/ editing. I've got so much data and so many (probably too tangental) ideas that I'm already quite substantially over the word limit and still have more in me!!

I should have a mere 10k - I've got 15 in main body, not including qualitative tables and footnotes...(and not to mention circa 15k appendices!!). So, "concise" box? un-tick.

I'm always in this position. Lol. But since this assignment is a tad more important than before, I don't want to be penalised. As my superviser's unavailable (and was hardly available before) I can't ask her directly, but she's been lenient on me before I reckon. However, I don't know if the chief examiners will be...

What are others' experiences? How to you get rid of 'bulk' that seems to be in-disposable?

Thanks in advance :-)

PP
posted
17-Aug-10, 12:24
by button
Avatar for button VIP
posted about 9 years ago
Hi,

I was just coming on here to post the same thing! I'm trying desperately hard to edit my MA diss at the moment, but I'm 6k words over!

I'm sorry I don't have any real advice, but just wanted to let you know that you're not alone, and I always have this problem. I'm actually considering getting rid of one theme (mine's a qualitative study), to free up some words as it's not a main theme. But that means going through the whole thing and getting rid of everything where I have mentioned it, and I'll probably still be over the word count! Not fun.
posted
17-Aug-10, 12:32
edited about 13 seconds later
Avatar for PrettyPollicy
posted about 9 years ago
Oh, gawwd...that sounds painful, Button.

But a good idea - I think perhaps I should do the same. Can I ask, with your qualitative research have you represented your data purely in prose-form? I was advised by a visiting tutor to tabulate mine, but because I still have to elaborate and situate key examples within my main body, I'm sure having the table is kind of just unnecessary wordage that could be cross-referenced to my appendices!
Or is that kind of bad practice in terms of leading the reader through your process of interpretation?

Argh... word counts are why I'm scared of numbers/ quantitative stuff!!

Good luck with your editing, Button..x

PP
posted
17-Aug-10, 12:54
edited about 8 seconds later
by rick
Avatar for rick
posted about 9 years ago
Hi Pretty, Botton,

my "problem" is that I write very concisely, as such perhaps I could help you.

Start with a clean sheet of paper, do not look at your thesis.

Write a summary, by heart, indicating what your project has been about and what the main findings are.

Create chapters based on key sentences from this summary.

Add "bulk" from your old thesis, yet strictly adhering yourself to the iabove indicated structure

Surplus: Either throw away or, if allowed, attach as an appendix with extra information.


Good luck
posted
17-Aug-10, 13:08
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for stressed
posted about 9 years ago
Ouch!!! I always have the same problem- I write far too much and have to chop massive amounts out BUT it always makes it better :-) I think my best one was when I wrote 10K words for a 3k word BA essay - that hurt! I still haven't sussed the whole 'writing to wordcount' thing, I write and then go through and take out anything that detracts from the over-riding theme, repeats anything, generally fluffs things out a bit to take it back to the core.

On the lenience question I'm not sure of the rules in your uni but at mine they have a 10% ruling - 10% either way is fine and main arugments mustn't be in the appendices (although I tend to chuck a few in). I think if I remember rightly that my MA thesis had to be 10-12k words and I submitted close to 13.5k in the end. One thing my sup said to me is that they can tell if its over through the sheer size of it and page numbers but if all those words are necessary and are interesting then they don't notice as much. It really is a skill that you have to master in the end as when you come to submit to journals and things then they are far far stricter.
posted
17-Aug-10, 13:30
edited about 28 seconds later
Avatar for queerface VIP
posted about 9 years ago
I am in the same hell with my thesis which at one point was 12000 words over the 100000 allowed. I just keep reading it over and over again, each time paring down more and more stuff that it not necessary -big sections of literature review at first that I added to look good more than to help the argument, cutting out whole quotes from participants and my analysis of them, etc right down to hyphenising pairs of words where I can, rephrasing sentences to get to the point more (eg. changing: 'what is interesting about X is that...', to 'X is interesting because' and so on).

It is a nightmare! I always, always write too much. I have come to see editing as something which is a necessary part of all my writing to tighten it up. I get too attached to my sentences though and usually get someone else to read my work to tell me what to get rid of. Maybe this might help you?

I have 3-4000 words left to cull... it is agony! good luck!
posted
17-Aug-10, 21:58
edited about 26 seconds later
by joyce
Avatar for joyce
posted about 9 years ago
I have the same problem, I'm nowhere near writing up yet, but what I have done is I've taken the total number of chapters and the word count and divided the count up, which is giving me a rough idea of how many words I have for each chapter. Even so, I have moved lots of content to endnotes, which my supervisor likes, plus I have moved other material to the appendix section. My big problem is that now I've altered the focus of the research a bit, I have more thingsto put in - but I don't want to take anything out and so far chapters are running at about 3000 words over what they should be. Mind you, unless they have an electronic version are they going to count the words anyway??? :-)
posted
17-Aug-10, 22:47
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 9 years ago
Don't endnotes count towards your overall total Joyce? They do at my uni, whether endnotes or footnotes. Only appendices don't.

I reckon examiners can tell if something is too long based on experience and things like numbers of pages, and just how puggled they are reading it! My supervisor said he hates examining a thesis that's way too long. He much prefers something too short, if it must be one or the other.

And I'd echo the advice that writing the right length is a skill that is needed for journal papers. They are *very* fussy about sticking to length and other rules and regulations.
posted
18-Aug-10, 09:42
edited about 27 seconds later
Avatar for MatildaL
posted about 9 years ago
======= Date Modified 18 Aug 2010 09:43:09 =======
I'm at the desperate stage of using the "Find and Replace" function in Word to change the names of organisations to their initials.

So, for example I put "......The Society of Desperate Editors" ( hereafter referred to as 'SDE')" at the first instance then get clicking away to change the rest of the text. I saved 110 words in the last chapter just by doing that.

And I agree with Queerface's advice too. Get rid of "This thesis has argued that....X is important" and rephrase as "Arguably X is important"

Each uni is different - I check that our Grad school does NOT include footnoes ( that is quite a saviour!)
Matilda
posted
18-Aug-10, 10:02
by joyce
Avatar for joyce
posted about 9 years ago
no, endnotes are OK here- thank goodness. If necessary though I guess I could gather them all together and make them yet another appendix. The post grad secretary here, when asked about going over the limit just smiled and said 'they don't count the words' - I guess when you get to 80000, plus the 10% another couple of thousand are going to go unnoticed! I'm thinking about putting all the extra bits onto a DVD and sticking it in as well, a video of an experiment or two might go down well...:-)
posted
18-Aug-10, 10:06
edited about 9 seconds later
by joyce
Avatar for joyce
posted about 9 years ago
Ref 'find and replace'
make sure you save before each time you use it to make replacements - I have known occasions where it has 'found and replaced' stuff you didn't want it to, and somehow doing 'undo' has resulted in a complete collapse as language as we know it.
posted
18-Aug-10, 10:33
Avatar for PrettyPollicy
posted about 9 years ago
Wow - very grateful for all the ideas! I fell off the wagon a bit yesterday - one of those 'no wood through trees' days!

I think that, yes, I'll try to distance myself by putting the d*mn file out of sight and creating a new template, and only the really clearly expressed ideas/ evidence can go in. Then I'll probably find myself way short of the word count!!

Joyce - yes, I did the Find/ Replace thing like that in a few of my earlier assignments. I don't mind doing it for orgs etc, but in this document there's an external party I consulted whose job title is ridiculously long winded...so I guess I'll have to call her "the XYDSJ Manager" each time I refer to her...that's probably 50 words gone!

I must say, it's really tempting to ignore the general university 'rulebook' as my department seem to operate like a bit of a satellite entity and make up their own rules, to an extent....which would probably mean I shouldn't stress so much (at least if I'm less than 500/1000 extra over).
The other thing I usually do is make my font 11.5 instead of twelve, and make the margins as narrrow as I can get away with...but I think that'll be unacceptable, and will look like utter rubbish in a hard-bound format, next to everyone else's pro-looking masterpieces!

Here goes...scissors ready...wish me luck :p
posted
18-Aug-10, 11:51
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for stressed
posted about 9 years ago
Lmao at the reformating :-) Earlier this year I had to write a board paper, not supposed to go over 40 pages lol, trouble was I couldn't find anything to remove and my sup recommended dropping to 1.5 spacing with a slightly smaller font and removing the gaps between paragraphs lol lol lol, he started doing it for me and then left me to it - got it down to page count if not word count.... not sure it'll work for the final thesis though ;-)
posted
18-Aug-10, 12:11
Avatar for PrettyPollicy
posted about 9 years ago
Haha, Stressed - I do that one too!!

Seems I've tried every trick in the book except the hard, virtuous one of actually improving my conciseness. Maybe it's about time I learnt. My tutors are a little divided about my writing, with one calling it "baroque" as I like to use poetic allusions a lot - to mask, I'm sure, a reluctance to consolidate ideas and stand on one side of the fence. But the other loves this characteristic!! So, perhaps it's time to find a happy medium and be kind to my 'audience' instead of indulging myself... !

I feel like a (sprout)
posted
29-Aug-10, 12:40
Avatar for PrettyPollicy
posted about 9 years ago
Ok, quick question:

I've resorted to abbreviating names of organisations that wouldn't usually be abbreviated, and have included these in alphabetical list at the beginning. Do I still have to introduce the full phrase/ name within my main body, or is the list of abbreviations self-sufficient?

Also, what's not acceptable to do this with - e.g. book/ exhibition titles?

I've already hacked a good 2000 words of content :-s
Am hoping to cut even more superfluous stuff so I can put some of it back, in as I'm hating my dry, unembellished writing now!!!

Any thoughts?

Thanks, PP x

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