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Blogs: Cutting words in your posts Part 3

Categories: blogs and online writing, writing technique.
Hi Writers,
Since there seems to be a great deal of angst surrounding my advice to try to keep your blog posts short, I’m going to do one final post on the subject and then move on to more creative, less-irritating topics.

My advice to try and keep the majority of your blog posts down to 300 words or fewer was only meant to be a general guideline—not an arbitrary rule—for day-to-day blogging. As I wrote in my original post “20 Tips for Good Blogging” if you’ve got good stuff—go long. But let it be a conscious decision.

If you’re a blogger who’s writing long posts on a regular basis and getting the readership and feedback you want, of course you should keep it up. Then get on here and tell us all how you’re doing it, because we all want to know!

The fact is, if you’re accustomed to writing for magazines or books, blogging is an entirely different form of writing.

Here are a few facts about writing for the web, provided by the good folks in my IT department:
• Most visitors do not scroll to see what’s beyond the fold; if they do it will not be beyond 2 1/2 screens.
• People read 25% slower from screens than paper.
• Resolution of a computer screen is 30X lower than resolution of a printed page.

Just something for you to think about. Of course, if you’re blogging purely as a means of self-expression and don’t care about developing a big readership, don’t worry about any of this.

I welcome your comments, both positive and not-so positive.

Keep Writing,
Maria

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12 Responses to Blogs: Cutting words in your posts Part 3

  1. Karen Swim says:

    Maria,

    Your advice is right on target. I too had developed a wordiness from my business writing. I have been working on brevity and the response has been positive. The side benefit is that cutting excess has helped in my offline writing as well. Thanks for the post!

    Karen

  2. I scan about 20 different blogs through my google reader (including this blog which I just added a couple of weeks ago.) For me, it’s all about topic. Just like a magazine. I read the title, and then the opening paragraph, and if I’m hooked I keep reading. If it’s long, but I’m really hooked, I’ll read the whole thing. Just like I do with magazine articles.

    As for my own blog, my experience is the same as the other seasoned bloggers here have mentioned. Fresh posts get the most traffic. Posting on a regular basis keeps site traffic steady and growing. Posting on compelling topics gets it really going! (my current post about alternative views on hell has over 70 comments, a record for my humble blog…)

  3. Simon Wood says:

    I agree with this wholeheartedly. I was part of a multi-author blog for 2yrs. I kept to a 500 word limit on my post whereas my blogmates liked to go 1500-2000 words. After a couple of months, they cut them down to 600 max because no one was reading the entries to the end–including me. Traffic to the blog went up when the word count went down. I think our attention spans in the online world.

  4. Maria,

    I get a lot of hits from people who look at multiple pages of my blog. Then again, I get my share of people who come to see what’s most recent, too. I think I fall in between as far as my stance on blog post length. I’ve used my blog to write fairly extensive essays before, and the feedback’s been pretty decent. Some of my older essays get regular hits, so I know someone’s reading them.

    I believe in catering to both those who like the short and pithy and those who appreciate the longer posts.

    Lisa

  5. Thomax says:

    The Blog is something completely new to me. I have a page for a writers group I am starting in town. I was wondering if you had any advice as to topics to throw out there when my group starts in March. This is a first for me, I’m excited, but scared.

  6. Velvet says:

    This is a hard topic but one close to my heart. I tend to be longer winded than I’d like, however, my content afforded me the luxury of many many words. I spent two years writing a disguised tell-all on my romantic life. The things that happened in one particular relationship were so over the top that the details were so wanted by my readers. The pace at which my life moved was unbelievable, even to me, and it truly became better than a soap opera. To cut anything out would leave people without all the details they craved, compromise the story, and as Donna said, I would have lost some of my voice. Because I’ve given up all the delicious details, I find that my opinion pieces just have to be tighter or I do lose people’s focus and they miss the point.

    See? Even this comment was longer than I intended…

  7. Alfa King says:

    Good advice and rightly said people want it quick on the net.

  8. Helen says:

    Gabrielle, I love your expression: "I will immediately click and be gone."

    I’ve blogged four years on my tech blog, and am in the first year on my writing blog. I never gave much thought to length, because I’m usually discussing bite-sized concepts. I do know that I get the most comments on my shorter posts, seems they are more provocative.

    Here’s one of my shortest at releaseyourwriting.blogspot.com:

    Monday, November 26, 2007
    E. L. Doctorow

    In one brief phrase, E.L. Doctorow says all we need to know to finish writing a book:

    "… there is no way out except through that last sentence."

    source: Creationists, E.L. Doctorow, Random House

  9. :Donna says:

    LOL, Maria — I’m thinking that in picking one of Kevin’s posts as an example of editing, that was the problem. His style is beloved by most, if not all, of his readers, so cutting out his voice didn’t work. If it had been a post that doesn’t have such a strong voice, yet ran at the mouth, I think the edit would’ve been more effective. I do think everyone got your point though, so it wasn’t wasted!
    : Donna

  10. Cindy says:

    I prefer reading short unless the article has me rapt, immediately. One of my most popular blog posts ran about 1200 words, but when I decided to edit it for publication, I was able to cut it down to 650 words to fit the magazine’s guidelines. It was difficult, but I did it and it was published.

    Having the 300 word limit in mind is good practice, in general, but I’ll admit I’m not a fastidious blog editor.

    Peace,
    Cindy

  11. Didn’t mean to cause any fuss ;) I totally get what you’re saying about readers not taking the time to read beyond the first screen. Back in my own blogging heyday, when I was getting around 1000 readers a day, my posts were generally around 500-800 words, and people rarely read anything past the top post. I did occasionally ‘go long’, especially when I was posting excerpts from my NaNoWriMo novel, but you’re right – for the most part, I stayed within the shorter boundaries.

    I do think there’s room for longer writing in the blog format – look at Darth Vader’s blog, especially the moving final entry, for a spectacular example.

  12. Oh, I totally agree, Maria. If I’m reading a new blog and I see that the posts are miles long, I will immediately click and be gone. That said, if I’m reading a blog I love, I will tolerate a few word-lengthy posts. In general, short is ALWAYS better.

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