23 May How To Make The Most Of Word Counts & Page Limits
Working to limits and constraints can be a challenge — especially when trying to write a persuasive bid. But there are also many benefits that you may not realise at first.
For example, word counts, page limits, and other constrictions help writers to focus only on their strongest and most salient points.
This is beneficial as there are few things more persuasive than a bid that is succinct, concise, and highly relevant – so if you discover that there are strict constraints on a bid application, don’t panic!
Below, we explore an approach that will help you to not just work through the restrictions, but instead make them work to your advantage!
A Step-By-Step Approach
In the first instance, do not allow the constraints to overwhelm you. When you see page limits, word limits, and character counts, employ a positive approach.
Consider that, with clear constraints, you know exactly how much time and space you have, and can feel confident knowing that the other applicants are working within the same limits. Know also that there is no pressure to carry on writing beyond what you feel is appropriate – it will not be the case that writing the longest bid means writing the best one!
To help you make the best use of the word count you’re given, try using the following step-by-step approach to stay on track from start to finish.
STEP ONE: Read The Whole Application In Advance
Begin by reading the application questions from start to finish. This is an essential first step because you will then be aware of all the topics that need to be covered and the criteria that need to be met.
A common mistake is to begin by answering individual questions or sections straight away, before reading the rest of the document. But the problem with this approach is that it can often lead to repetition.
For example, you may find that something you included in response to an earlier question is even more relevant to a later one, meaning that you then have to rewrite and reorganise your work.
Instead, save yourself time and energy by first going through the entire application. Make quick notes or bullet points on what to include in each section, and you will instantly start to break down the workload.
STEP TWO: Organise Your Notes
After the initial read-through and note-taking, it is now time to form those notes into clear and persuasive paragraphs. With effective initial notes and bullet points, you can ensure that you are meeting all essential criteria and genuinely answering the question.
It can be tempting to include a lot of information — whether it is directly relevant or not — but it is important to keep things clear and simple.
Ensure that what you are writing is always directly relevant or linking back to answering the question. If you are including details about prior experience, for example, be sure to communicate how this is relevant to the current opportunity.
STEP THREE: Rewrite & Refine
Do not worry if your responses are initially above the character limit, word count, or page limit. For many professional writers, it is most important to simply get a first draft down and then rewrite and refine it later.
One of the most effective ways to do this is to read through your answer as if you are coming to it completely fresh. Which bits are the most effective? And where does it become overly complex or less focused on your key details?
Be ruthless in your rewriting and refinement process, and use the word and page limits to ensure that you are only including the most relevant information.
STEP FOUR: Keep Perspective
When focusing on a detailed task, it is easy to lose your sense of the bigger picture, so be sure to take regular breaks, and seek a second opinion by having your colleagues and co-workers read through and proofread your work.
It is important to ensure that readers find the bid both persuasive and easy to understand. This is especially important if the reader may be short on time, which will likely be the case for highly competitive or particularly lucrative opportunities.
How Constraints Can Help You
While word counts and page limits can seem like a limitation, it is also important to understand how they can benefit you.
Limits help to ensure that you focus much of your attention on only the most important and most relevant information. They also put you on a level playing field with competitors, guaranteeing that everyone has the same amount of time and space to shine.
So the next time you are presented with a bid for work that requires you to stick to a strict word count, try to frame this as a positive situation which you can use to your advantage.