PS Tip 52 : How long is too long?

Generally (but by no means always) when you’re writing a personal statement you’ll be given a word or character limit – unless that limit is exceptionally high, you’re perfectly within your rights to use as much of it as necessary to put forward your case.

If you aren’t given a limit, you’ll need to exercise some judgement.

The primary consideration here is the psychological element – There is no significant difference between an 800-word statement and a 1000-word statement… unless the second version crosses over onto an additional page. There is a huge psychological difference between reading a 1-page statement, which fits onto a single side of paper, and reading a 2-page statement which clearly doesn’t – If you’re only writing on one side of each sheet that difference will be magnified even further, as suddenly there are multiple sheets to contend with.

To that end, it’s best to limit yourself in advance to a certain number of pages, as in this way you can make your personal statement seem shorter than it actually is. You can also influence this through changes to font sizes and margins – Be warned though, the psychological impact of tiny fonts or cramped formatting are potentially even worse than those associated with very long statements.

Whilst, as always, there are no hard-and-fast rules surrounding the length of personal statements, it’s worth noting that very, very few should ever exceed two pages. There’s simply no need, and if you write more than that you’re seriously risking boring the reader, no matter how interesting you make it (or think you make it).

We write a lot of statements for clients targeting very senior management/executive level jobs, and the vast majority of them fit onto a single side of paper. That may be difficult to achieve in some circumstances, and there is a definite skill/talent to refining statements down so that they say more in fewer words. However, even if you have difficulty reducing the length of your statement yourself, so long as you stay within two pages, you should be in the clear.

<< PS Tip 51 Make your own word limit >>

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