What’s Long? What’s Short?

"Writing", 22 November 2008

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I came across someone’s post the other day, on how she (I think it was a she) reads blogs. The gist of what she said is that she’s busy, she reads posts on her phone, and she likes them short (and not boring). Judging by her own blog posts, “short” to her means a couple of paragraphs. What made this especially funny to me is that this blogger is in the book business. Wouldn’t a reader like to read?

My posts tend to run in the neighborhood of 1000 words. Fewer, preferably, though skimming over what I’ve written, they often run over. I found one that went a whole 2400 words (and at least a few people have even read the whole thing). I’ve always wanted my blog to contribute something new to the internet, not just relink and repeat; from that perspective, eight hundred to a thousand words seems to strike a balance between meaningful content, and keeping it short enough to be readable.

But if a standard blog post is a couple of paragraphs, then I’m writing War and Peace. And what’s more, I like reading long posts. Some of the blogs I like best run long: Stonekettle Station and Dr. Gerald Stein come to mind, though there are many others. And other bloggers whom I think of as “long” writers actually write shorter posts than I do.

The funny thing is that I think of myself as a nibbling reader — short stories and essays are my preferred formats. The tapas of writing. Maybe that’s why I don’t mind long posts: they’re really essays in another medium, and I don’t have to save my precious reading time for novels and the extended concentration required for long form writing. A question of priorities, then.

What do you think? What’s the ideal blog post length? And does it differ between what you read, and what you write?

6 thoughts on “What’s Long? What’s Short?

  1. I do worry about this, but perhaps needlessly. I can’t find out how long someone has been on the page reading (well, I could if I could figure out how. but time is better spent on reading things) so how can I tell if people aren’t reading what I’ve written? If fewer people ‘like’ it, then I usually presume it’s just because fewer people are interested in what I’ve written. Quality drives me to continue reading. Like you say, if it’s just rehashes then why bother?

    That said, my Tumblr is often a linky sort of thing to my main blog. But that’s because I think of them as aimed at separate audiences – ie my family don’t tend to read my Tumblr.

    I always read through your posts, I am carried to the end of each one without any trouble, because the subject matter is interesting (usually something I’ve not come across anywhere) and your writing style is engaging. The two most important factors in blogging, for me anyway.

    • Thanks for the kind words! I think there is a place for re-linking and sharing other things you’ve found: Tumblr, as you say; Twitter, Facebook. I would just like my blog to be more than a continuation of my Facebook persona, as do you, it sounds like.

      I agree, the stats can’t tell us who actually reads and who just passes by. For me (because I don’t publicize much, and my subject matter is a bit niche), the number of likes and hits is mostly a function of when I post (relative to when other people are reading), and what tags I attach to it. In the end, I have to trust my judgement on those things I’ve written that I like best — and those tend to be a little under 1000 words, usually.

      Of course, it helps to know that there are people out there actually reading what I write 🙂

  2. I think it just depends on the topic! If you’re trying to tell a story it should be as long as it needs to be but if your trying to get to a point or just ask a simple question and get others thoughts on something then shorter is better, maybe! hmm :/

    • Yes, I agree that you don’t need a lot of verbiage for some points, and some questions. I try to remember that, but sometimes I just ramble on… And with some writers, the rambling is their charm. Hopefully, I’m one of them 🙂

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