Blogging used to have all sorts of rules, but they’ve fallen to the wayside. We’re early adopters of blogs, shaping them into what we want to be and evolving them continually. There are blogs with informal voices and formal voices, blogs about personal things and work things, blogs that have long posts and blogs that have short posts.
The title may have tipped you off as to today’s discussion.
The Length Debate
Short posts versus long posts has always been part of the debate of what we should post on blogs, even while other aspects have been thrown to the winds. The rules on every element of your blog go pretty much as follows: if other people like it and continue to come visit, it’s all good.
Not so for length.
People have strong opinions about the proper length for a blog post. Some say it should be no longer than 300 words. Some think the length should be even shorter and say it should be less than 200 words. To give you an idea of just how short that is, by the time I get to the end of this sentence, I will have written approximately 200 words. Pretty short, right?
Other people insist there’s no way you can get useful information into a post that short, and that all blog posts should run at least 500-600 words so as to get some real meat into the topic of the day.
As in all debates, there are good points and bad points to each side. Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of short and long posts.
- Good example of a popular short-post blog: Seth Godin. You don’t get much more popular than Seth, and most of his posts are in the 200-word range.
- You can be pithy, funny, and witty in a short post just as easily as in a long post. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am could be a short-post motto.
- You can’t really tackle all sides of an argument in a short blog posts, but . . .
- You can tackle each side of an argument on separate days, thus lengthening the number of posts you get out of each idea.
- Readers are less inclined to have conversations in the comment section of short posts, because you don’t seem to be starting a discussion.
- Sometimes readers are more inclined to start their own conversation, because you haven’t started one for them and haven’t completed the discussion in your post. Readers are very hard to manage that way. They have their quirks.
- It’s sometimes quite hard to be brief in a blog post, especially if you are passionate about the subject at hand.
- Learning to be brief in your blog posts is excellent practice for concise, well-written prose that you can use in other types of writing. Full of passion, low on words. Awesome.
- Good example of a popular long-post blog: Copyblogger. Brian Clark often farms out his posts to his team of writers these days, but they all adhere to about the same length, often upwards of 600 words.
- While you can be pithy and funny in a long post, you can’t exactly make a single statement and then crack jokes about it for the next 600 words. You’re writing an essay, not a statement.
- You can tackle every side of any argument, going on as long as you need to.
Sometimes “as long as you need to” means your posts get too wild and cover too many topics. In short, it’s a rant and not a well-reasoned argument.
- Readers are in general far more inclined to comment on long posts. We don’t know why, it’s just true. Short posts have the “maybe-maybe not” thing going on as far as commenting, but long posts almost invariably have lots of comments.
- Habitual long posters sometimes get so attached to the idea of writing an essay every time they blog that they run out of ideas quickly, since they used up all their ideas in one long post.
- Learning to keep your readers’ attention in a long post is actually quite difficult, but that gives you practice for other types of writing. You’ll need to learn to make every word shine so your reader doesn’t get bored and leave. Mark Twain would have been great at long posts.
Of course, the length of your blog posts depends on the kind of thinker you are, and what kind of blogger you intend to be.
If you want to have a thought of the day and let your commentators take it where they will, that’s totally fine, just so long as you make it a real insight and not the quote you read off the tea box this morning. If you’d rather write long posts that guide your reader through your train of thought and encourage them at the end to add their own insight, that’s okay too.
What is the one necessary quality for all blog posts, of any length, any topic, anywhere?
They must be well written. And for both short and long posts, finding out what “well-written” means to your readers is often a trial-and-error process.
What’s your experience been with post length? What do you like to read most? What kind of post-length blogger are you? Short or long?