“How Long Should My Content Be?” Saying More In Fewer Words

less is more neon light sign

“When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.”  —William Shakespeare

One day, my mother, father, and grandmother speaking at length about a complex issue. My grandfather sat in his chair, staring out of the window. The volume of their voices grew as they delivered their perspectives. After a period of talking over one another to stress their points, everyone gave up on convincing the others of their view. A silence fell over the room. Without breaking his stare out of the window, my grandfather spoke a single sentence. This utterance tied up every argument with a bow. This single line spoke to every perspective mentioned all while solving the dilemma in question. Mouths hung agape in awe of the point made by someone they didn’t even know was listening. My grandfather never said much, but when he did, everyone listened. In our own marketing content, we’re guilty of speaking at length while saying little. In this piece, we’re going to explore the virtue of brevity — saying more in fewer words.

angry writer

Using words sparingly increases each word’s weight

male writer laptop

How long should your content be?

“It should be possible to explain the laws of physics to a barmaid.” — Albert Einstein

All too often, we create content in order to prove how much we understand about a concept. Most readers are not interested in your understanding of an idea — they simply want to know more about the subject. This need to prove yourself can reduce the usefulness of your content. So, how long should your content be? Long enough to get the point across and usually not a syllable longer.

Exercise: If you’re stuck on how to explain an idea, write down how you would explain it to a friend and use that.   

But don’t search engines want longer content?

“I try to leave out the parts that readers tend to skip.” — Elmore Leonard

This is true...kind of. There is an idea that search algorithms prefer longer works of content — some say in the 1,000-2,000-word range. This is true only if the content maintains its usefulness throughout. Ultimately, search engines want to deliver useful results to their users. More often than not, online readers are skimming longer blog posts rather than fully reading them. If written properly, a shorter blog article can prove itself to be just as informative as the longer articles. When you can offer as much information with less reading or skimming, this will increase the user experience of your blog article. This ease of consumption of your content will motivate others to share your work and thereby increase the article’s authority with search engines.

Writing shorter content is actually harder.

“Please forgive the long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one.” — Blaise Pascal

Publishing a shorter article does not mean writing less. The shortening of an article happens later. Yes, the final product is short, but the first draft may be hundreds of words longer. The editing process is where you pan for the gold of your article and remove unnecessary debris. Trimming fat and simplifying ideas can often take more time than preparing a longer version of the piece.

Exercise: Strike the entire first paragraph from your first draft and see if the article still makes sense. You’ll often find that it will. Frequently, the first paragraph was simply clearing out the cobwebs in your mind.

In Conclusion

  • Using words sparingly increases each word’s weight.
  • More content does not denote a greater understanding of the subject matter.
  • When educating your readers, anticipate their questions and deliver answers.
  • Begin writing unhinged and tighten it up when editing.
  • You will be surprised how much of your writing you can remove.

man proofreading and editing article
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