Short Essays vs. Long Essays: Key Differences Explained by Our Experts

An essay writing is a truly difficult task about which students often have many questions. 

  • How to start an essay? 
  • How to deal with a certain essay type? 
  • What must and must not be in the essay introduction? 

We’ve invited two expert writers from the Essay Writing Department to answer some questions that students might have about long and short essays. 

With us today is James Snyder and Kate Roth, the Senior Supervisors from the Essay Writing Department. James adores short stories and often prefers this kind of writing. He is intrigued by the power a few words can have and the sensations they can create. Kate is more of a long-form writer, often going way beyond the required word limit and always having something to add to her essays.  

Let’s see what they have to say about long and short essays. 

Q: How long should a short essay be?

James: A short essay should be… short. Just kidding. Frankly speaking, it depends on the system. It’s clear that short and long essays are very broad notions. For example, a 300-word essay will be short. But a 500 words essay could be considered short as well. Short essays are often limited to a page or two. But here, the spacing comes into play. Two double-spaced pages have those 500 words, but single-spaced ones will have 1000 words, and that’s not especially short, right?

Let’s say that a short essay has to be limited to approximately 500 words, but if your professor thinks that a three-page essay is also short, sorry, I can’t help. 

Q: How many paragraphs is a short essay?

James: The classic structure of an essay requires three paragraphs: one for the introduction, one for the body, and one for the conclusion. If an essay’s word count allows it, you can separate the body into a few paragraphs. But three seems to be enough for a short one while still meeting the basic requirements of essay structure.

Q: How is a short essay evaluated?

James: Like any other essay format.

The evaluation criteria include the absence of misprints and mistakes, a generally proper tone of language, the use of sources (if they are required), a good structure, and the way the main idea is properly represented and supported. And, of course, the number of words have to stay within the limit for a short essay to receive a high mark.  

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Q: What skills does a short essay show?

James: The main challenge of the short essay is to show an idea and support it with the proper argumentation within the limits of the word count. You may think that it’s easier to write a short text than a long one, but the challenges start when you see that you’ve only just begun to cover a topic and the word count has already been exceeded. Short essays require you to make the essence of the ideas and arguments clear and leave aside everything that’s unnecessary. This can be a difficult task. 

Q: What are some expert tips for writing an outstanding short essay?

James: To write an essay properly, you need to have time. In a long essay, you can allow yourself to leave a lot of the text, even though some sentences might not be very important.

In contrast, a good short essay presents the essence of an idea. You have to be ready to change your sentences again and again, throwing away everything that’s unimportant and leaving only the words that work for your main idea.

You also need to define that idea for yourself clearly. What do you want to say to the reader? Why is it important? 

Q: How much time is given for a short essay?

James: It depends on the circumstances. For some tests, you can have half an hour or more. But if it’s a task for your next lesson, you may have up to a week to cope with it or get help with essays.

short essay VS long essay

Q: And now, let’s turn to long essay writing. How long should a long essay be?

Kate: A long essay can have different lengths. It starts at approximately three pages but might not have a limit.

A long essay can have four pages but might also have ten or even more. It depends on the requirements and topic.

Sometimes, to cover all the stuff, you truly need to have a lot of space for it, especially if you need to use many sources. Direct citations and paraphrases are also counted as part of the general word count, you know.  

Q: How many paragraphs are in a long essay?

Kate: Five or more. The structure of essay includes an introduction, body, and conclusion, but the number of paragraphs in the body depends on the thesis. The thesis statement combines all the arguments that you have to support your main idea, and each paragraph of the essay covers one argument.

For a long essay, it’s proper to have at least three arguments to support your idea. However, you can have four of them or even more. 

Q: How is a long essay evaluated?

Kate: The evaluation of a long essay is not very different from giving a grade to any other type of essay. It is evaluated in accordance with the instructions, which include the context, structure, language, use of sources, and any other aspects of the development which a learner ought to demonstrate when writing an essay. 

Q: What skills does a long essay show?

Kate: A long essay shows the writer’s skill in developing a proper text structure. If you have to write a long essay, it is easy to become entangled in your thoughts and arguments or to jump from one topic to another and become confused, confusing your reader as well.

A good long essay shows the structure of the arguments that are represented in the best order to prove the main idea. 

Q: What are some expert tips for writing an outstanding long essay?

Kate: The most important thing for a long essay is making a clear outline. I’ve already said that for a long essay, a good structure is paramount, and having an outline is extremely helpful. It will prevent you from getting lost in your thoughts or unexpectedly turning to another topic. A detailed outline shows you the main idea for each paragraph, which source to use, and where you need to cite. 

Q: How much time is given for a long essay?

Kate: An hour or more. It depends on the reason why you are writing it. It can be some kind of test, but it can also be a common part of learning when you must write an essay according to the deadline that the professor gives to you and all your peers.

Q: What’s the difference between a short and long essay?

James: A short essay is the essence of an idea. It has a lower word count and covers the topic clearly and briefly.

Kate: A long essay has a higher word count and allows you to cover the topic with all the details you find suitable. 


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Lauren Bradshaw
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Lauren started writing in 2003. Since then, she tried her hand in SEO and website copywriting, composing for blogs, and working as an academic writer. Her main interests lie in content marketing, developing communication skills, and blogging.