The 500 Word Essay

January 4, 2009

by — Posted in Personal Writing

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Remember in high school when we had to do the five hundred word essay.  It may have been on Roman Politics and how they were the basis of modern government.  It may have been a book report on Huckleberry Finn, which we were forced to read in high school; for the record I like Tom Sawyer better.   Either way we would dread doing this report.   It could have been given to us two weeks ahead of time, but I’m sure most people didn’t utilize those two weeks.    Instead they put it off knowing sometime in the future they would get around to writing such a paper.

So we would leave until the night before we actually had to turn it in.   We would fret and strive over which words to use and we also liberally used the word “the” and “and” as much as possible counting those along the way.   If anything I am sure our grammar was actually better since better grammar usually has more words.   We would finish page one, one hundred and sixty four words finished.   Doing that math in our head we realized that we needed about three more pages worth of words, cursing the teacher as we struggled on.

We would take synopsis from the text book, paraphrasing along the way.   We would wonder if we actually bothered to use citations in our work if those counted, or if they were just a waste of time.   We wondered if the teacher actually counted each and every word to make sure that we reached the minimum of five hundred.  We worried as we stuffed in more “the”‘s into a sentence on how Custer actually had influence on the following presidential election.   We pretended that we had spent the full time working on the project, in reality the teacher knew that we didn’t, but yet graded us on the great masking of illusion that weaved the BS spilling neatly across the page.

It was all a power struggle, the teacher pushing out hte work and the requirements, the students doing their bare minimum to get by in the hopes that the paper about Zeus was actually going to matter to the Seniors after they graduated.   The teachers taught, and the students pretended to learn.

These days however we know the stupid things that we were taught, truly did nothing to the make us better.  Most of the learning I’ve done in my life I have done best out of the school setting.   Writing also doesn’t intimidate me, five hundred words really is a blink in the moment of time that I can breeze through in a matter of minutes.   I hope my child has the drive to do the same.  Writing is simple.  Writing is easy.  I can ut out five hundred words in no time at all.   This piece is exactly five hundred words and took me 12 minutes to complete – I wonder if I was faster in high school when I didn’t count the words.

3 thoughts on “The 500 Word Essay

  1. dude make a thing that you like type in your name birth date and stuff andselect the number of words you want and it will right it for you :)) im horrible at writing stuff that would be awesome umm if you do… E-mail me at

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