Thursday, January 10, 2013

How Long is Too Long

Since I’ve been writing I’ve been reading many more blogs. I’ve learned a lot about writing, I’ve commented on posts, and some posts I’ve skipped. Why skip posts on topics I’m interested in? In a very few words: length and format.

I read a lot so I’m not afraid to read. The blog topics I’m interested in should encourage me to read the posts. The fact that I skip some without reading past the title is telling. The length is the first item that is off putting, and how the paragraphs break, if there are any, are the second.
We should all want to write tight, using as few words as possible to convey the idea or concept. If a blog is 1000 words long followed by a 200 word author bio, it’s not tight writing.

A blog is rejected if the opening paragraph is 300 words long. I’ve written posts which were not much longer, and broken it into different paragraphs. Formatting posts so they are eye friendly is an important consideration for the writer.

Many people are not strong readers. They read slower and may have very little confidence they can read, or understand what they read. If the writer formats the post with long paragraphs, the insecure reader may skip an article. They have then missed a post they might have enjoyed, possibly learning something. The author has lost an opportunity for a repeat reader.

The same is true for lengthy posts. To a ‘weak’ reader a long post, just like a poorly formatted one, will scare her off before she even begins. By writing tight and keeping the posts well structured, hopefully readers of any strength will choose to read the posts. With reading comes greater reading strength. With the strength comes more confidence, and thus more reading.

Time is another consideration. Everyone is busy, and trying to find time to read all the blogs we follow or discover can lead potential readers to skip posts that are overly long.

In setting a loose limit on the length of blog posts a writer imposes concise text without extra words. It makes the writer come to the point of their blog by not allowing deviation of focus. A loose limit forces the writer to carefully choose the phrasing. This will help combat awkward sentences. These skills will translate to other forms of writing into which the author delves.

Five hundred words is a good loose limit because some topics will not need that many words. Others will need more, but not too many or the writing probably needs tightening up.

If the topic does require more than the limit consider dividing it into more than one post. By making the topic into a series three things are accomplished. The topic is completely covered, a weak reader isn’t frightened away, and the blog author gets repeat readers.
More and repeat readers of blogs. Isn’t that what we all want?

Photo of typing hands by hisks; woman reading by arinas74. Both found on
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  1. Great post, Sophie, and spot on! One of my favorite blogs to read is Cec Murphey's. I always learn something from him and his max length seems to be about 200 words! He cuts to the chase!

  2. So true!!

    I find bullet points keep the eye moving down the page. They're bite-sized nuggets the reader can handle. The key is to make each nugget so tasty, they want another. ;-)

    Also random format changes briefly relieve the eye and mind, giving the reader a bit more energy to keep going.

    Great post!

  3. I agree, around 500 words is a good length for a post. I make a two-parter or a series if my post is long. And, along with your reasons, it's another posting day filled!

    For easier reading, there's also white space - keeping the paragraphs short helps.

  4. Thank you for all the useful tips, especially about the length of a post and adding bullet points. Since I just started blogging last year, this will help.

  5. To me there is a huge difference between a Writer and an Author. I admire those who have a love for writing. I understand the amount of research and hard work that goes into their projects. I'm not that, I didn't have to do any research for my true story "A Child Has No Voice," Because I lived it. I'm simply the Author of this book hoping to reach young parents. No matter how young or old we are, we impact the lives of those around us.