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The Long and the Short of Blog Posts

Dave Taylor answers the eternal blogging question of “Are long blog entries better than short ones?” and writes :

‘I’m reminded of a common piece of advice from good development editors in the publishing business about how long a chapter or book should ultimately be: write just enough to cover the material at the appropriate level of detail, then stop….

Personally, I don’t subscribe to weblogs where the typical entry is less than about 250 words, because I’m not interested in discoverability, that is, what other pages on the Web I should be checking out, but in why the blogger thinks the page, article, site, entry, whatever, is worth my attention.’

I’m with Dave in arguing that each blogger needs to work out what length post suits their writing style and blog topic.

Whilst I’d always advise that your posts should be to the point – I find that here at ProBlogger my posts tend to be much longer on average than some of my other blogs – (and you as readers don’t seem to mind) – however on other blogs readers seem to want quick and simple information and the short post works very well.

I also find that on those blogs you choose to post lengthy posts on it’s helpful to use the extended entry field and to mix up the length of your posts. In the middle of your long ones put a few short and simple ones – after all, variety is the spice of life.

What’s the average length of your blog posts?

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Like Dave I avoid blogs which give a single sentence with a link, and contain just a bit of cryptic “in” stuff which only residents of Palo Alto could possibly know about. As a writer I have a tendency to write lengthy essays on any topics that take my fancy. So, on my blogs I try to limit this by concentrating solely on the facts plus a bit of comment. Doesn’t always work though.

  2. I’ve been trying to make them shorter and more to the point.

  3. This is truly a case of “it depends”. It’s like arguing about the perfect colour or the ideal layout (yes, I always bring it back to design!).

    A blog about 18th century french literature will likely require longer posts than one about Brittney Spears.

  4. Tim Flight says:

    Quoting my writing instructor from school days: “The length should be just like a girl’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to keep it interesting.”

  5. I checked the average length of my last ten blog entries and I’m averaging about 3/4 of a screen. Some are longer, I rarely post less than half a screen. This is not a target, rather a reflection of my “say what you mean to say, don’t waffle and stop when you’ve said it” style of writing.

    On the other hand, short entries seem to work for the Instapundit and very, very long entries work well for Bill Whittle over at ejectejecteject.com. Variety is the spice of life, and blogs it would seem.

  6. Yvonne Foong says:

    I”d say average length is the favour. Write from personal opinions and don’t just quote. But don’t blab either like its a grandmother story. Just go straight to the point. Just like how Darren writes. :-)

  7. Felix says:

    In some way Darren, you do the same (often linking to other sites), but with the difference that you’re often offering the reader your own opinion or just writing more about the subject of the article, from your point of view. And most of the time, that’s just the interesting part. :-) So if a blogger is not just link-dumping (at least all the time), it’s ok with me.

  8. Hollis says:

    Mark Twain once said: “I didnt have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you this long one instead.” It is absurd to criticize someone for an economy of words. Forgive me, but in writing, size does not matter. Anyone with stamina alone can bang on a keyboard to reach some magic “250 words or more” length for a posting. In creating memorable and helpful writing — blogging or writing an epic novel — it is rewriting, stripping away the unnecessary words and striving for clear concisness that matters. Saying a blog — any blog — is unworthy because it is short is the same as dismissing a glorious sunset because it it is fleeting. A sure way to scare off readers — and that is what we seek, to share what we have to say with others — is to write 500 words on a topic that deserves but 50.

  9. Cary says:

    Hollis, all of what you say is true, but I think by concentrating on the part of the quote that says “I don’t subscribe to weblogs where the typical entry is less than about 250 words,” you miss the real point that the author is trying to make…he finishes this same sentence by writing, “because I’m not interested in discoverability, that is, what other pages on the Web I should be checking out, but in why the blogger thinks the page, article, site, entry, whatever, is worth my attention.”

    I personally think this is an excellent point. ProBlogger and many other great blogs I can think of, including the Blog Herald, etc, are good reads not because of the posts they make us aware of, but because the bloggers bring added value to the post by including relevant commentary…if they were just rehashing someone else’s content or acting as pointers to other sites I don’t think they would be anywhere near as popular as they are.

    I completely agree that a post should be no longer than necessary, but by the same token, no amount of brevity will make for a boring post ; )

  10. Cary says:

    no amount of brevity will MAKE UP for a boring post

    Darren, I sure wish you offered comment previews ; )

  11. Ben says:

    Most of my posts are in the 100-250 word range with accompanying images, but I actually enjoy writing the longer ones (500-1000 words) more.

  12. dbs says:

    I’m with Dave T on this. The first bit of owrking on your blog is to keep it rolling with good content. There’s 2 extremes away from this.

    One is the “I haven’t posted today, I must say something!” that results in yet another blog about what your cat did today. Yippee, keep it on Livejournal. The flipside is the long-dead blog. Going over a week without a post is anathema, IMHO, to the ‘flow’ and readership-holding capabilities of a good site.

    So, IMHO, post regularly, post completely, and post thoroughly. Think your content through, edit it, say just what you want to say, and hit “Publish”. You don’t need a long treatise on the topic (very easy to do), but you don’t want a 2 line “Bush sucks” type of posting, because there’s nothing unique, interesting, or different about it.

    We all have blogs! This is the aughts, and we’re all barbarians!

    Rise above the masses, and be an -interesting- barbarian.

  13. duncan says:

    There is no one answer to this, the length of a post is dependent on its topic and depth of thought and text required to convey your message, idea or arguement. In this regards there is no write or wrong: sometimes I can convey a thought better is 200 words than I can in 2000, and at other times vice versa. Sometimes it might be somewhere in between. As a blogger though I could only say to others though this isn’t something you should get hung up on: quality is not measured by length.

  14. There’s one important factor to keep in mind about Dave Taylor’s original commentary. While he may not be interested in posts that basically just give a link, other people apparently are. Similarly while some people may want to read substantial opinion pieces, others just want news clippings.

    How long your posts should be entirely depends on what audience you’re aiming at. Or to put it another way. How long should a post be? How long is a piece of string?

  15. Duane says:

    I think that length of post had better balance with number of posts. If you’re writing a small novel in each post, AND you have 6 new posts a day, I will rapidly fall behind and begin skimming. But if you only write one paragraph in your post, and you’re at less than one post a day, you’ll get lost in the shuffle too.

    I will tend to write some smaller bits on the blog if I feel like I’ve not posted anything recently. I always try to throw in some value add about why I put it there, but honestly, if I find myself just rephrasing what’s in the first paragraph of the story, I won’t kid anybody, I’ll just snip out an excerpt. I try to avoid doing that, though, and focus more on original stuff/stories/opinions if at all possible.

  16. JErm says:

    I blog random and sarcastic, and I try to keep things concise, straight to the heart where it hurts. There had been rare occasions when I blabbered quite a bit, but it’s usually also cryptic in the way that not many would have a clue of what I’m talking about. Is that why I’m not making good money off AdSense? *LMFAO*

  17. Laura says:

    My blog lengths vary. Some are short, some are small. Some are long and some are tall. Sorry . . . I’ve been reading too much Dr. Seuss.

  18. ka edong says:

    When I’m passionate about a subject, I write loooong. I keep it interesting by making some parts of the post a sidebar to the main post. (see Jun-jun the parking man

    But sometimes it drains too much of my time and energy to write too passionately. I post short stuff in between.

    Cheers!

    Edwin
    Technobiography
    Mobile Tulay

  19. ka edong says:

    Ooops, here’s a better example of a sidebar story for long posts:
    Extra Challenge – a Nationwide Field Trip

    I also spice things up with some audio clips or photos to tell my story:
    I got gift-rapped

    Edwin
    Technobiography
    Mobile Tulay

  20. graywolf says:

    I like this philosophy, an article should be like a woman’s skirt, long enough to cover the essentials, short enough to keep things interesting.

  21. michele says:

    I set a limit on my post.no matter what the essay/post content: humor, creative, political, finance, parenting. If it’s more than 2 pages I break up the topic and do installments. Max length on any post is 2 pages in a wordprocessing document. If it’s a tad longer then I know it needs editing.

    Ironically, I/we get more and longer responses to our longer pieces. The the shorter ones we just get grunts. I don’t like grunting!