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What Word Limit? The Constraint Is Your Ability To Write A Compelling Tale


On the last post, I had a commenter ask if I thought my 2000 word post was well received. It’s a good question and one question I often get is about the length of blog posts. Some people say 400 words should be your goal. Some people say no more than 600 to 800 words. Supposedly, nobody reads anything over 800 words online.

Generally speaking, I keep my posts on TLNT below 800 words. I’ve dipped into 1,200 word territory on occasion but that’s pretty rare. Now, I would be interested in doing a long form series for TLNT but what has been better for online publications, at least as far as I know, has been a series approach. So let’s say I want to drop somewhere between 5,000–10,000 words on a specific subject. Instead of putting that all into a single online piece, you create a series of it for the week and, in so many words, milk the long form subject the way you put your biggest story in the back half of a magazine.

It keeps the content brief for people who want to jump in and out of the story but good for the folks who love to read longer stories.

For this blog though, there is no formal word limit. I’ve gone over 1,000 words numerous times. Especially when my blog was more popular, longer posts were the norm. When this blog sucked, sometimes the posts wouldn’t go beyond this point (you’re at the 235 word mark by the way).

The big failure in evangelizing blogging as a platform is the reduction of the discussion of blogs as the sum of their technical attributes. How long should it be? How do I SEO optimize it? Should I tag or categorize? What platform should I use? Should I allow comments? How many visitors am I getting? How much money am I making per pageview?

This is where I’m supposed to say this stuff is important but I’m not going to say that.

What people don’t spend enough time on is thinking about their writing. When you focus in on word counts rather than telling a good story, you’re destined to fail. If you focus and write a compelling story but it is too long, you have a lot of options. If you write a crappy story within your pre-destined word count, the only way to fix it is with a rewrite.

There are a lot of technically competent blogs out there. Folks who did their homework and have the technical situation down. But, let’s be real: the content can daft on some of the most fantastically constructed blogs. Because they couldn’t imagine going over 600 words, they never cover issues with any sort of weight or breadth that have a few more words allows you to do. Or that their link baited titles are so SEO optimized to the hilt that it feels formulaic, just like their self-linking in the post content itself.

There’s a legitimate alternative out there. Think a ton about what you’re writing about, read multiple takes on the subject, think about who is interested in it, think about why you’re interested in it, write something interesting, edit (for clarity, simplicity and completeness), and hit publish.

For some folks, that will be 200 words. For me, sometimes it is almost 2,000. Or 200 words. (Okay, it’s never 200 words)

By Lance Haun

Strategy for The Starr Conspiracy. Former HR pro. Portland guy (Go Blazers!) and WSU alum (Go Cougs!). I get to write about what I want here.

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