What Do Essay Contests Consider Part of Their Character Count?
How to Avoid Getting Disqualified
Editors will often require specific character or word counts for your work. They do this for a variety of reasons—to save themselves from having to read entire novels, to test how clearly and concisely an essayist can write. No matter what the reason is for the assigned character or word limit, you must comply. The first thing an editor will check is your character or word count and if your essay is too long, it will be immediately disqualified.
How Essay Contests Define Characters
Characters are the basic building blocks of writing. Whether you are composing a writing contest entry, a Google headline or a tweet, the number of characters you use in your writing is important. So what counts as a character? Do spaces count? What about commas and periods?
Most of the time, spaces, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and punctuation all count toward a character limit. For example, if you are composing a tweet, you will be limited to 280 characters, and everything you type counts.
Some writing contests may not count spaces or punctuation toward their character count. Check what the contest rules say. If the writing contest rules don't explicitly state that some characters are excluded from the character count, play it safe by counting them all. It's better to trim a few letters from your entry than to be disqualified for exceeding the character count.
How to Tell How Many Characters Your Entry Has
If you're not sure whether your entry is under the allowed character limit, don't worry—there are several easy ways to count your characters:
- Use a Word Processor. Compose your entry into a word processor like MS Word or Apple Pages and click on the Word Count feature to see the number of characters.
- Use a Free Character Counter. There are several websites that offer a free character counter, where you just need to copy-paste your text to check the number of characters written. Some even let you specify whether spaces should be counted or not. LetterCount.com is a popular option, but you can do a Google search for "character counters" to see all of your choices.
- Use a Writer-Specific Processor. Tools like Scrivener automatically track your character and word count at the bottom or side of your screen for you. If you need to swap out longer words for shorter synonyms, the clicks to check your character count after each change can add up in a normal word processor.
Shrinking Your Character Count
If your essay contest entry has too many characters, it's time to edit aggressively. Go back through the essay to see where you can be more concise. Be ruthless about shrinking your character count by removing unnecessary repetition and by making your prose as clean and smooth as possible. When you can no longer sacrifice words without losing important content, it's time to look at the words themselves. Are you using character-heavy words that could be effectively replaced by shorter synonyms?
A tool like thesaurus.com will help you find those more concise synonyms.
When Character Counts Are Usually Used
Most of the time, short writing is limited by characters. Longer pieces of writing usually use a word count as a limit. For example, a 500-word essay would be about a single page long, whereas a 500 character essay would be about 100 to 150 words long.
So, Recode reported today that Twitter was tinkering around with the idea of expanding its 140 character limit to a number a bit higher….10,000 characters.
But what, you ask (and I’m glad you did), does 10,000 characters look like? Well, hey. Let’s find out.
Soooo, did you see the Warriors game last night? Crazy, right? It was nice to see Harrison Barnes back and the entire crowd cheered when he entered the game. Steph Curry is probably not human, because he shoots the ball from the parking lot and it swishes like butter. How many characters am I up to now? Lemme check, so hold on….
Anyways, then it started raining today and my dogs don’t like rain so it’s really difficult to take them outside to do their business in the morning when they don’t want to deal with the rain. I try to talk them into the fact that they’re actually getting a bath and pooping at the same time, kind of a two birds with one stone thing. They don’t buy it. Speaking of rain, it didn’t rain on my wedding day like the weather people thought it would. How do they keep their jobs when they’re wrong all of the time? It’s almost like they could do my job. Wait, I didn’t mean that how it sounded. Where are we at now?
OK. So anyways. Here’s a favorite quote of mine from Bill Clinton:
If you live long enough, you’ll make mistakes. But if you learn from them, you’ll be a better person. It’s how you handle adversity, not how it affects you. The main thing is never quit, never quit, never quit.
I think what he’s saying is that you can make mistakes, but you have to learn from them. I’ve made a bunch of mistakes, how about you? My dogs made a mistake this morning because they didn’t want to go out in the rain. But that’s cool, I don’t get mad. Life’s too short, you know?
Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit. Never quit.
Did you see the President speak about gun control today? It’s important. Probably the most important problem of our time and we have to solve it. Here’s what he said today:
THE PRESIDENT: Happy New Year, everybody. Before the New Year, I mentioned that I had given the charge to my Attorney General, FBI Director, Deputy Director at the ATF, and personnel at my White House to work together to see what more we could do to prevent a scourge of gun violence in this country.
I think everybody here is all too familiar with the statistics. We have tens of thousands of people every single year who are killed by guns. We have suicides that are committed by firearms at a rate that far exceeds other countries. We have a frequency of mass shootings that far exceeds other countries in frequency.
And although it is my strong belief that for us to get our complete arm around the problem Congress needs to act, what I asked my team to do is to see what more we could do to strengthen our enforcement and prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands to make sure that criminals, people who are mentally unstable, those who could pose a danger to themselves or others are less likely to get them.
And I’ve just received back a report from Attorney General Lynch, Director Comey, as well as Deputy Director Brandon about some of the ideas and initiatives that they think can make a difference. And the good news is, is that these are not only recommendations that are well within my legal authority and the executive branch, but they’re also ones that the overwhelming majority of the American people, including gun owners, support and believe.
So over the next several days, we’ll be rolling out these initiatives. We’ll be making sure that people have a very clear understanding of what can make a difference and what we can do. And although we have to be very clear that this is not going to solve every violent crime in this country, it’s not going to prevent every mass shooting, it’s not going to keep every gun out of the hands of a criminal, it will potentially save lives and spare families the pain and the extraordinary loss that they’ve suffered as a consequence of a firearm getting in the hands of the wrong people.
I’m also confident that the recommendations that are being made by my team here are ones that are entirely consistent with the Second Amendment and people’s lawful right to bear arms. And we’ve been very careful recognizing that, although we have a strong tradition of gun ownership in this country, that even though it’s who possess firearms for hunting, for self-protection, and for other legitimate reasons, I want to make sure that the wrong people don’t have them for the wrong reasons.
So I want to say how much I appreciate the outstanding work that the team has done. Many of you worked over the holidays to get this set of recommendations to me. And I’m looking forward to speaking to the American people over the next several days in more detail about it.
Thank you very much, everybody.
Regardless of where you stand on the matter, we have to change some things.
Back to tech. Are you at CES? I’m not this year. Mostly because there’s a lot of germs and I shouldn’t be around them if I can help it. I’m pretty sure my dogs would have liked it though, because there’s a lot of tech in Vegas for all kinds of people (and pets). If you were a dog would you want a phone? Or a self-feeding thing? Of course you would. You’d have to sit around all day watching your parents use technology while you sit around and lick yourself. What kind of existence is that? I know, right? I hope there’s some dog tech that comes out of the conference, otherwise it’s a wash.
Time for another quote. JFK this time:
When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.
I think what JFK meant was just because things aren’t going your way doesn’t mean that it won’t eventually. You have to play the long game, you have to stick in there and see things as far as you can possibly see them. It’s like Twitter. People are worried about whether Twitter can weather the storm of lack of growth. I think it can. What about the character count? Well, I personally feel like asking people to keep their thoughts shorter make them more powerful. They’re easier to share. Repeat, etc. What will happen when people can put this much text in a tweet? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t want to spend hours reading tweets because I like the fact that I can glance at the app and figure out what’s going on pretty quickly.
If I wanted to write a book, I’d do it on Facebook.
But maybe people want more characters. I’m not sure who, though. I’d like to meet them. Maybe they have dogs, too. We could chat about that.
What are your favorite movies? I have a top 10 and it changes sometimes:
– Forrest Gump
– Cast Away
– Fantastic Mr. Fox
– Lars and the Real Girl
– Shawshank Redemption
– Jackie Brown
Share yours in the comments if you want.
Here’s another quote, this time from Maya Angelou:
The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud. Somebody who may not look like you. May not call God the same name you call God – if they call God at all. I may not dance your dances or speak your language. But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.
Being a blessing to someone is a great way to be. Have you been a blessing to someone lately? I feel like we could all do a better job of that, even if it’s in small ways. I feel like people always want to do something great and massively huge, but forget about all of the little things along the way. Making someone smile, holding the door for someone, giving someone a hug when they really really need it. Those kinds of things last forever. Don’t hold back on doing a bunch of little great things to do something huge that you’ll get overwhelmed with and not follow through on.
8614. Wow, this is a lot of characters.
I feel like Kurt Wagner did a good job of talking about the ramifications of expanding tweets to 10,000 characters:
The design aspect is key. Making Tweets bigger by adding more content or bigger pictures has diminished user engagement in the past, according to one source. That makes sense. If tweets take a long time to consume or take up more space on your screen, it’s likely that you’ll view (and engage with) fewer of them. So Twitter is trying to add more content without disrupting the way you currently scroll through your timeline.
How can Twitter become more like Facebook without becoming Facebook? There’s too many words on Facebook, something the company itself is trying to get away from by introducing all sorts of new media, like 360 degree videos. There’s always a place for long form content, and just because you have the space doesn’t mean you have to fill it. But still, a lot of people will try. Spammers will definitely try. In fact, can you imagine getting spam tweets that are over 140 characters? Ugh. It’ll be like reading SPAM in your EMAIL!@$#!@#!@#
One more quote, this one from Clarence Darrow:
When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.
Maybe Twitter should just acquire Medium instead.
Oops, I went over the “limit.”