While I can't talk for all teachers, I personally am not really so anal that I desperately need a certain number of words or pieces of paper to sleep at night. When I set a length requirement, I'm mostly thinking about an appropriate level of focus and critical engagement, because writers think much differently about a topic in three pages than in six. So when a student tries to slip past inadequate thought, it kind of gets me steamed.
I have, like most teachers, seen students try a ton of different tricks, such as:
- the use of Courier New, which stretches out a short paper
- the use of Courier New on a Mac, which adds more space than on a pc
- a slightly larger font, ranging from 13 pts. up to the fairly obvious 16
- increasing margin size, up to an unsubtle 2"
- increasing spacing, from the sneaky 2.25 spacing to the ridiculous triple spacing
- adding extra spacing between paragraphs, up to 16pts. worth
By this point in my career, these are all relatively easy to spot...and when I do see them, I get angry that the student in question thinks I'm dumb enough not to be able to immediately spot their lazy attempts to stretch out a short paper.
Today, though, I discovered a new one. My spousal unit brought me a page which I was sure was triple spaced. When we opened the file, however, it was in double spacing. I opened it up in both Word and OpenOffice without difference. After puzzling over it for a while, I discovered the student trick: only the periods were in 18 pt....which stretched out the spacing while keeping it officially double spacing.
Pretty clever on the student's part. I still think, however, that it wouldn't cost too much more effort to just do the damn assignment. I am, however, pretty happy to learn another student trick. I have another bit of evil I can now effectively thwart!