Forget About Length, and Focus on Value

    focus on quality

    What do you focus on?

    You know what words really annoy me. I mean, really piss me off?

    Word count.

    I hate it. I hate that it gets so much of our attention in the online world.

    Have you ever heard that a blog post should never be more than 500 words? I hear people say this all the time.

    The reason is that people have short attention spans and need to be fed a dollop of information quickly, with minimum chance of distraction.

    Is this true? I don’t believe so. Not by a long shot. But some pretty notable people do; and “conventional” wisdom disagrees with me.

    Let’s look at both sides, then I’ll tell you what I have found to be true, and why.

    Longer is Better

    500 words is barely enough time to really identify an issue, let alone spend any time discussing it.

    And yet the web is full of short, snappy, basically useless blog posts, because people are so frightened of scaring off or boring their readers.

    If you think your writing is so bad that it only deserves 500 words worth of time from your reader, stop now. Find another line of work.

    My writing is worth more attention than that, and so is yours

    But Shorter is Better Too

    It’s been said by a smarter man than I that brevity is the soul of wit.

    Besides, is there anything more annoying than a bloated piece of writing that uses one paragraph to make a point and the following twelve to beat it to death? It’s like being back in high school, scrambling for fillers to make your ten-page quota.

    If something can be said quickly and succinctly, it should be. Especially because there are so many distractions online waiting to steal readers’ attention.

    Why risk it?

    Enough Already… Who Cares About Length? Think About Value!

    Is there a clear winner in this debate?

    I don’t think so.

    There’s no point in getting hung up on word length when the important thing is providing value.

    Pieces of any length provide value. That’s why we have, and appreciate, Haiku AND academic treatises.

    More specifically for the web, writing should be exactly as long as it needs to be to deliver great value – but no longer.

    So forget about the length of your piece and focus on making every sentence as value-packed as you possibly can.

    No one is going to stop reading after 500 words if they’re interested in what you’re saying. They’ll want more!

    By the same token, when you’re long-winded, people will stop reading, maybe before they get to your point.

    Neither of these alternatives is acceptable for someone with something to say.

    Guarantee Value at ANY Length

    Most non-fiction writing has, at its core, a simple goal: identifying a problem and offering a solution.

    This holds true across topics and industries.

    To get more information about an issue that matters to them is why most people read non-fiction at all. (Fiction and poetry and other genre writers take note – the people you write for have issues that need to be addressed, and if you can do that for them, they will be that much more likely to believe you can also tell a good story!)

    You can provide even more value by examining the roots of problems and what steps can be taken to fix them, but when you try to cover all that, it can be challenging to walk the line between too short and too long.

    A System for Value?

    Here’s where non-narrative writing like blog posts can take a lesson from fiction: introduction, rising tension, conclusion.

    In this case, introduction is talking about the problem, rising tension is identifying the roots of the problem and conclusion is what can be done about it.

    It can take a little practice to get used to framing your work in this way, but it is the surest way to guarantee value without leaving anything out or droning on ad infinitum.

    That’s the reason I developed Write Like Freddy – to make it fast, effective and easy to provide value-packed blog posts every single time, and use them to further online careers.


    About the author:

    Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is the co-founder of Firepole Marketing, the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”, and the co-author (with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark, and many others) of Engagement from Scratch! (available on Amazon, or as a free download). The latest and greatest thing you can get from him (for free, of course) is his Naked Marketing Manifesto, about marketing that really works!

    Image: Focus on Qualitycourtesy of Bigstockphoto.com

    About the author

      Danny Iny

      Danny Iny is the founder of Mirasee, host of the Business Reimaginedpodcast, best-selling author of multiple books including Engagement from Scratch!, The Audience Revolution, and Teach and Grow Rich, and creator of the acclaimed Audience Business Masterclass and Course Builder’s Laboratory training programs

    • Ella says:

      It is really a pleasant plus valuable part of info. I’m content for you to discussed this handy details around. Be sure to continue being united states current like this. Appreciation for giving.

    • Gyula says:

      I agree, value is more important than word count. (I find word count useful only to monitor my daily writing quota.) However people tend not to read long articles on the internet. It may be because we got to used to short ones, I don’t know.
      Ron Heimbecher has a point.

    • One of my biggest pet peeves in professional writing is the hang up on word count. So many people will add weightless words to content just to make the minimum limit. A few more very’s, much more’s and especially’s aren’t adding to the quality of the content.

    • Priska says:

      Do people want a quick fix or are they willing to dig deeper?
      My posts are still too long because I have not acquired blogging skills yet.
      Still I prefer a post that offers a little more than a few quick fix bullet points.

    • Ted says:

      Excellent article.
      Word count means nothing to me. I aim to identify a problem and then offer a solution or two, and when I’m done with that, I stop writing. That could be 400 words or 2000, whatever the piece calls for.
      If you’re doing your job as a writer, your readers will keep reading regardless of the length of the article.
      I enjoyed reading your perspective, thanks for a nice article.

    • RD Meyer says:

      I like using a word count as a guide. It’s not hard and fast, and yes, content is king, but it helps mold me into form. I can go waaaaaaayyyyy to far into the ether if I don’t have guideposts, and a word count goal helps me shape things. So long as it doesn’tr bind me to that count(nothing more than a general guideline), I see little wrong with it.

    • I don’t think that it’s attention span at all. It’s more that, want to or not, most of have very busy lives, whether pursuing dreams or day-to-day survival. I follow over a hundred blogs on a regular basis and if the title and first paragraph don’t catch my attention I move on.

      Not just blogging, even in fiction concise length is critical. If your target audience has a thirty minute lunch or a fifteen minute coffee break, write for it. Let them finish a scene, perhaps even a chapter… Set the hook for the next one before break time is expired.

      Study the scene/chapter lengtths of the top selling novelists — in number of units — for the last six or seven years. You’ll find 600-800 scenes and 1600-2000 word chapters. You may or may not like the work of Patterson, Brown, Deaver, et al but they produce — and sell — a ton of books. The Reader’s Digest model has worked for over 100 years, and it’s still the one of the most widely subscribed magazines in the world.

      Have enough respect for your audience to give them what they need to know within the time they have available.

    • I’m dyslexic. I read slowly so long posts can be off-putting. That said, I’ve read and enjoyed longer posts that captivated me. Bottom-line: write what you need to write, write well–and it will be read.
      Thank you for this well-written article.

    • mickholt says:

      I believe there is always something that can be cut after writing – I have done it three times to the preceding sentence – but for posting, you say what you have to say, make your edits and do not concern yourself with the length. If it can be said in 5 words great. If it takes more, like say 66, then that’s what it takes.

    • lisa says:

      I agree with you totally – I know I tune out and off if someone goes on without getting to the point – but then others will keep me engrossed – word count is irrelevant….
      what pisses me off though is the sales pitch at the end of great blogs……

    • Beth Havey says:

      Content, content, content. Write your post, your article, your novel. Then go back and read and edit and read again. You will take things out, rearrange and adjust. Writing is plastic. There are no definite rules except one–that your work delivers the message you want to deliver. You will have the correct length for your work if you stay true to what you want to say.

    • When my author coaching clients ask me how long a book should be, I ask them “How many minutes should you stay on the train?”

      Minutes would be the wrong unit of measure. How about staying on the train just until you get to your stop?

      Words are the wrong measure for a book’s length, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. I know scifi/fantasy writers who believe that anything under 200,000 words isn’t worth writing. Even non-fiction authors think that if it’s less than 70,000 words, it’s just a pamphlet.

      Seth Godin has released books with less than 30,000 words, and they’re better than all the longer books on the same topics.

      @twilight guardian: 80K isn’t too long for a publisher, especially if your username is any hint to your content. Of course, you can ignore publishers and publish it yourself. Either way, you get to do the first edit (and the second and third, if you like) and reduce it by 10% each time. Write 120,000 words, do three edits to tighten it, and end up with a solid 80,000-word book.

      • twilight guardian says:

        @Joel D Canfield: No, my name is not a hint to my content.

        It seems I’ve fallen for a trap many writers get into and I just need to press on until it’s eventual ending. Then tear it to pieces with edits instead of trying to fix it all at once. I had considered splitting it into two books, especially after being told on several occasions book publishers are often very picky about the length of novels they’d submit, let alone other qualifications. It is nice to hear for once that someone else says the opposite, that I can be free to write and be as lengthy as it takes, then whittle it down merely to be compact and concise and not be too concerned with the word count. That feels a lot more natural than to be so picky about something that is a craft and art form.

        • While you’re *writing* you should ignore length. And spelling. And grammar. And punctuation.

          While you’re writing, write. Every tiny thing you do to staunch the flow damages your story.

          Write. Then deal with editing, rewriting, business and publishing considerations, and other stuff later.

          Book publishers may indeed be fussy about length, but even if you decide to try to win the traditional publishing lottery, your length should be just fine.

          • Richard says:

            Great point, Joel (re: Write. Then deal with editing….). I really need to make that my mantra. I’m working on my first book and I’ve been going over the same few pages for a few days now. I need to just get it out onto the screen, regardless of the grammar, syntax, and all that other stuff. I’ll deal with “all that other stuff” later on. Here’s what I’ve been telling myself for the last few weeks: First produce, then edit.

            • Ooh; yeah. When you’re writing, just write. A major reason folks don’t finish a book is because they keep trying to make the first draft the final manuscript.

              As you’re writing, remind yourself that you’re going to do multiple proofreads and edits, and then you’ll have professionals do it some more. Let the words flow. Fix ’em later.

    • Jevon says:

      It’s interesting that you said, “Fiction writers take note, the people you write for will more likely believe you can tell a good story if you can address their issues.” This is the method i’m using with my blog to create an author platform, but I couldn’t say it so gracefully until now.

    • I’ve seen plenty of articles going around internet marketing blogs recently about how well long-form blog content (as in, at least 1,500 words – usually much more) is performing. But really, I don’t think that there’s ever going to be an “ideal” length – whether that’s under 500 words or more than 1,500.

      The length of your blog post needs to fit its subject. One of my most recent posts was over 2,000 because the subject I was tackling (‘what is content marketing and how can writers profit from it?”) couldn’t have been fully explained in 500 words. That said, if I was doing something short and inspirational, stretching it out to 1,500 words or more would miss the mark.

      As long as your content is interesting and useful, people will read it – no matter what the length.

    • Trixy says:

      Problem. Cause.Solution. Yes. Focussing on the point. Good one.

    • great advice thank you. Encouraging –

    • twilight guardian says:

      Thank you. I know I’m not talking about a blog or anything. But I was seriously worried about the length of my novel. I’m a first-time writer and my fantasy story is already over 80,000 words long. Much too long for any publisher and still not done. But I need to stop worrying about the length and finish it. Then I can work on improving it later.

      • Gyula says:

        80k words are not too many for a fantasy book, you should worry after 100k or 120k. 🙂
        Just keep writing and finish it.

    • e3941297e17226345b367b4f61e62e3e98e44947f806b5be70