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First time posting on here, so if I commit some type of taboo, sorry. 

I plan on applying to rhet/comp programs this fall, and I've been working on preparing my materials and such. My issue is deciding what to do for my writing sample. I have a 34 page piece that I am heavily attached to, and I really want to use it for my rhet/comp apps. I believe it shows my skills and my individuality the most out of all my papers, but the issue is the length. Most of the programs I am looking at applying to have a requirement.limit around 15 pages. I've been trying to find a way to cut it down, but I'm starting to realize that there is no way to revise that much out of the paper and maintain its original concepts and argument. I was told at some point that I could just take the first fifteen pages and state that it was an excerpt from a larger piece, but that seems like I might be shooting myself in the foot. Has anyone done this before? Is it something programs would accept?

Basically, do I choose the piece that represents my writing (meaning either cut it down and suffer or submit an excerpt and risk it) or do I choose a piece that is a standard research paper with less personality?

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I remember a very similar question coming up here a couple of years ago, and the general consensus seemed to be that if you are really attached to a long piece and can't exactly cut it down, you can at least cut parts out and leave a summary description in its place...usually in square brackets, like:

[Three paragraphs that discuss the use of kairos in passenger pigeon communications]

34 pages is MUCH too long, of course, and adcomms will either despise you or not read the whole thing...or (most likely) both. Of course, I also see the dilemma with trying to turn a 34-page document into something less than half that length. Some will argue that learning how to cut a paper down is a skill you're going to have to learn anyhow, so now would be a good time to start honing...but in an important document like this, you really do want to put your best foot forward.

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non-rhet/comp specific advice here: submitting something over twice as long as requested is not going to be appreciated. No one is going to read that much, because it means taking away time from reading other (better behaved) students' work, and professors' time is very limited. I'd try to find a way to get much closer to what they are asking for. That said, editing down a 35 page paper into a 15 page paper is not something I would personally want to take on as a task. It can be a very difficult task, although it's also an important one. I find that a much better approach is finding a good ~12-page chunk that could be a more or less stand-alone piece that you could submit along with a short 1-page description of what preceded it and a short 1-page description of what followed (so situating it in the context of the rest of the paper). As an alternative or addition you could also submit the entire paper in case someone wants to read more, but assume that the reader will start at the beginning and put the paper down on page 16 unless you tell them to start somewhere else. If this isn't possible in this case, then I think the only other option is to submit another paper that does meet the length requirement. 

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