Blogs: How to Keep your Word Count Down

Hi Writers,
Several people commented specifically on tip #10: Keep it Short from my “20 Tips for Good Blogging” article. They remarked that it’s difficult to keep posts to 300 words, and that word limit is perhaps too strict.

But I stick with my original advice to keep it short. Most successful blogs stick to a tight word count.
It may seem a difficult target, at first. But as most good editors and journalists know, you have to train yourself to be economical with your word choices.

I’m a fan of The Elements of Style by Strunk & White and I recommend this classic language and style guide to anyone who wants to be a better blogger, because it really gets to the core of how to write tight. Every time I’m tempted to insert an adverb or adjective in my own writing, I look down at my Strunk & White tattoo and reconsider.

Here’s an excerpt from The Elements of Style (4th edition) by Strunk & White:

Do not overwrite

Rich, ornate prose is hard to digest, generally unwholesome, and sometimes nauseating. If the sickly-sweet word, the overblown phrase are your natural form of expression, as is sometimes the case, you will have to compensate for it by a show of vigor, and by writing something as meritorious as the Song of Songs, which is Solomon’s.

When writing with a computer, you must guard against wordiness. The click and flow of a word processor can be seductive, and you may find yourself adding a few unnecessary words or even a whole passage just to experience the pleasure of running your fingers over the keyboard and watching your words appear on the screen. It is always a good idea to reread your writing later and ruthlessly delete the excess.

Don’t you love it when language style gurus get all smart-alecky? But this passage makes the point well.

Take a hard look at your last post and examine it for wordiness:
• Are there unnecessary adjectives and adverbs?
• Are there redundancies?
• Are there words that you wouldn’t naturally use in conversation?

Be ruthless. Cut down your wordiness. It will make your post more concise and readable and that’s essential to good blogging. Good writing = Good blogging.

Today’s question: Are you a wordy blogger? Please share here. It’s good to share.

And join me tomorrow when I attempt to edit a wordy post from a fellow WD blogger (guess who) down to 300 words.

Keep Writing,
P.S. WordPress and Blogger are running a tight race in the Best Blog Software for Writers Poll (below). I’m going to leave the poll open and I hope to announce a winner soon.

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11 thoughts on “Blogs: How to Keep your Word Count Down

  1. Wyatt Junker

    I remember reading Elements of Style over 15 years ago and being floored by it.

    One more thing: muscular verbs. If you are adjective prone, find a verb that can get it across better. This gives it more action.

    Also, editing should be layered. Edit once. Leave your piece. Come back to it the next day or a week later. Edit it again. You’d be surprised how much more lard needs to be excised still.

    And, yes, colleges are still the worst offenders of creating overly verbose, bureaucratic ‘style’ followed up by government agencies.

  2. Barbara (b)

    Blog, it seems to me, essentially needs to be a practice in flash (fiction) writing…always.

    Give the audience a choice of reading more by posting a separate sage blog.

    What is the point, though, if no one ever reads it?


  3. Lori Widmer

    The goal is to give only as much as is necessary. Sometimes that 100 words – sometimes it’s 500 words. Look, we’re all writers. We should be wearing our editorial hats when we write anyway, but to stick to an arbitrary number just for the sake of sticking to it doesn’t make sense. I agree that more editing needs to occur, but the reason isn’t to meet the word limit than to deliver better goods.

  4. MP Naron

    I agree that knowing your audience is key. I’m definitely a wordy blogger, but like many blogs, mine began as a lark; and while it’s developed a nice audience, SEO and monetizing aren’t a priority yet. If readers want a quick stream of tight blog posts, they’ll find them – but if they want to settle in for a meaty magazine-style piece, they’ll stay tuned to your style, regardless of length.

  5. Brenda G. Wooley

    What’s most important, I think, is the subject matter of your posts and how well-written they are. If readers are interested, they’ll keep coming back; if not, they won’t. Most of my posts are way longer than 300-500 words, but I have a large readership.

  6. Pam Hogeweide

    On my blog a typical post is 600-1,000 words. I write memoir style on topics of faith and spirituality. My posts are like essays. It is rare for me to write under 500 words, let alone 300. It works for me, for the ideas that I am forming and blogging about.

    But I do hear what you are saying in that Less is better. For sure. My posts could easily be much longer, but I restrain myself. As I look back at the more than 100 posts I’ve blogged over the last two years there are some posts that were really two essays in one. Definitely overdone. But mostly I’m a good blogger and stay on topic. My readers like my posts. The length does not seem to be a problem.

  7. Joel Heffner

    The number of words you use is usually dictated by what your goal is and who is going to read your blog. If it takes more words, that’s OK…unless the intended audience wants, as Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts." Personally, I like to keep my posts very short and to the point.


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