Adjusting Length of the_content in the homepage loop

I am trying to make the_content(); only show a specific amount of words. I ahve been looking at various plug ins all day and some are ok, but I havent found one that will keep the current set up in tact. I have a (‘More’) link at the end of the_content and I need it to stay there, all of the plug ins,etc seem to overlook this need and I am wondering if there is just some simple way to adjust the_content length on the fly?

thanks for the link, im curious though if this will help because of the circumstances.
Basically my issue is I am developing a theme to sell, My concern is that if the person is reckless with the <----More-----> tag, it will essentially mess up the way I have the latest articles aligned on the front page. If the word count stays under 40 or 50, the design will not be affected, but if one of the more tags goes over 50 words, all sorts of stuff happens, so Im trying to take the more tag out of the equation and basically say regardless of what the knucklehead does, no ifs, ands, or buts, 50 words max will show up here to keep integrity of the design.

Use the_excerpt vs the_content?

The following page may help: