Word Count and Page Limits

I’m not sure how my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kellogg, found time to count every word in our compositions. Two-hundred-fifty words meant 250, not 249 but a few more, but only a loosely defined few more, seemed to be OK.

Her statement, “Contractions in formal writing are unacceptable,” was good for me. It was easier to make word count using do not instead of don’t, etc. The no contractions rule stuck with me until a journal editor told me to shorten my article by using them. “Extra words increase printing costs.”

I found another way to stretch the word count for Mrs. Kellogg – insert ‘that’ and other words wherever I could. (“He required that deliveries be made at the time specified in his correspondence,” instead of, “He required on-time deliveries.”)

She also gave page limit assignments. “Write three pages on college rule paper; no more – no less. One-line space between writing in cursive – no printing! Use the red line on the notebook paper for margins. Hyphenate as you were taught!”

I tried the letter and space stretch but she had an eye that matched her teaching skills. “Too much space between words, distracts the reader,” she noted.

Readers, please remember ‘that’ in the 1950s and even later, typed compositions were rarely accepted by high school teachers. I could type but I guess teachers had an obligation to check for legible handwriting too. I’m sure Mrs. Kellogg would have suffered less eye strain if I could have typed my work.

Did I meet the word count requirement, Mrs. Kellogg?

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