Is Brevity Best in Blogging?

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I’m constantly reading how busy everyone is and how attention span these days is incredibly short. It seems that the 140 characters of Twitter is about the optimum limit if one were to believe this.

What’s your feel about word counts in blog posts? Are you drawn towards writing/reading very short ones? Do you run from long posts and I don’t mean ‘long-winded’ here.

What has me wondering all the more about this supposed short attention span is the number of people who are writing books. Have people got the time and/or attention span to read books these days or do they just speed read them or just read reviews?

I can’t resist a few quotes about brevity:

It is with words as with sunbeams. The more they are condensed, the deeper they burn. ~Robert Southey

If you can’t write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don’t have a clear idea. ~David Belasco

 

 

Author: socialbridge

I am a sociologist and writer from Ireland. I have worked as a social researcher for 30 years and have had a lifelong passion for writing. My main research interests relate to health care and I love to write both non-fiction and poetry.

65 thoughts on “Is Brevity Best in Blogging?”

  1. Yes.

    Haha. I was tempted to leave it there πŸ™‚ I think there is an optimum desirable length to a blog post – it should be concise. Unless you stalk just a few blogs you’re tending to grab a few spare minutes in between other activities to check blog posts. Certainly I find it difficult to focus on long-winded essays.
    Book reading is a different mentality. Generally you’re settling down for a long period and you give the book the respect of concentrating on it 100%.

    1. Hi Roy, thanks for writing (at greater length than planned).
      Interesting about the different mentality for books ~ I’m not so very sure about this, from personal experience. Since I discovered audio-books, back when they had more or less just been invented, I find that I love listening to them. The ultimate relaxation but it is more passive than actually holding a book and turning pages. Must say, I can’t really manage unless I have a good audio-book on the go and a pile of them to look forward to.

  2. I don’t think the attention span is short if the subject matter captures attention, and though on the whole people do seem to go for shorter material that fits around busy lifestyles, the long reads sush as Tolkein, for example, still seem to fire the imagination.

    1. Sue, I agree that a huge amount in blogging as everywhere else, the subject matter is crucial and whether or not it is of particular interest.
      I must say I wonder if people really are busier than they used to be or is it a fashionable thing to be ‘busy, busy.’

      1. I rather think it depends how we define ‘busy’… we always seem to be rushing around or have schedules and things, yet on the whole we probably have more potentially free time than ever. We just choose to fill it.

            1. Circumstances undoubtedly do… as a carer I know that intimately from several angles… but our choices as individuals, to be who we choose, those do not, I think, depend on circumstance… though circumstance can shape and shadow those choices.

  3. My take is attention span and time are factors. I tend to stick to under 1,000 words and actually I rarely get close to that on a normal basis. I write “shorts” though and because I gauge my writing towards that I have adapted a style that still looks “complete” even if it is short. Hope that helps! πŸ™‚

    1. Hi OM, thanks for writing. Must say I can’t imagine writing a blog post of 1,000 words unless it was earth-shattering stuff.
      I agree that short can definitely be ‘complete’ ~ one only has to think of some of the great, great poems.

    1. Joan, I absolutely agree about the important of breaking longer posts up with photos. In fact, I find I can’t post any kind of a post without a photo!
      I’m afraid I’m still not great about keeping up (or even trying) to keep up with all the blogs I follow. Having said that. I’m definitely getting more organised thanks to suggestions here a while back when I was in a major flounder.

  4. It’s that whole TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read) dilemma… ‘Tis true that it seems our attention span is getting shorter and shorter – and I agree with Roy that sitting down with a book is a whole different mentality than sitting at the computer with a blog!

    I generally try to keep it short enough, or at least fill with pictures like Joan says so that it keeps the interest!

    I have enjoyed really long posts and disliked really short ones! It’s all in the author’s hands!

    That said… I have a story to tell that I’ve been procrastinating because I’m afraid it will be too long and will get the TLDR treatment! Might still write it anyway (Story of the Three Daves…)

    1. Dale, hadn’t come across TLDR before. Is that a commonly used phrase or one of yours?
      How about breaking a story into a couple of posts? I’ve found that works well for me when reading other people’s blogs. I’ve never tried doing it. Possibly more difficult that it appears.

      1. I read it from Seth Godin, a marketing guru, that I follow. Every morning I receive a small blurb (something longer) and he once talked about this “new phenomena” and I realized that there were times where I didn’t read something – even of his – because it was too long! I think it depends on my mood and who I am reading. I expect shorts from him so when they are long, I am afraid they would be too technical or boring (to me). Obviously, if the post is interesting, I will keep on but if my attention drops, unlike with a book, I flush it!

        And yes, that is what I tend to do – break up into smaller “bites”!

  5. I am not convinced our attention spans are getting shorter, it is simply the relationship between volume and time – too much to read and too few hours.

    There is also no direct correlation between the number of words written and effort. There is an art to concise writing: “I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short” – Blaise Pascal.

    I also agree that reading a book is completely different exercise – it is an escape between covers and into pages. I am far from a luddite but I simply do not get e-books.

    Have a I said too much πŸ™‚

    1. Yes, I totally agree that the art of writing is in the editing.
      Is there a lot more to read now than there used to be or is it that it’s more in our faces if we get involved in social media stuff?

      Must say I’, completely with you about e-books. I can’t bear them!

  6. Oft the contrarian here, I will not be bound by what others think/suggest might be ideal re: word length. As the messenger, I am at choice when I write and if the essence can be converyed in fewer words, it shall be. I am not one to shave corners and compromise substance in the interest of a quantitative measure or limitation. For me, qualitative reigns over quantitative every time. And to Sue’s comment, if the subject matter captures attention, then it will have mine, regardless of length.

    1. Eric, I agree that quality should always prevail and I’m not suggesting that there is an optimum word count.
      For me, subject matter, writing style and visuals count in that order in a non-photographic/art post.

  7. I write what I want to write without edit usually and never think of length.. Then I read it and often chop a lot of extra fluff. However I then tend to add or expand on feelings and detail so it ends up much the same length as the original.
    When I read I don’t like posts regularly over 1200 words, although if i follow a blogger I usually don’t even notice how long their posts are. Having said that I read a blog storyshucker and I love his stories no matter what length they may be.

    1. Tric, I agree that the needs of the writer are just as, if not more important, than those of the reader when it comes to blogging. So much depends on why one blogs in the first place.

      Sometimes, I feel like prefacing a post by saying ‘I Wrote this Purely for Me; Read it if You Want.’

  8. Our sound bites are devolving into little sound tastes. And speaking of sound, I don’t have as much time to read as I used to, and have been listening to audio books more and more. (great for the car or the kitchen)

    1. Sandy, a kindred spirit re audio books! However, I must say I only listen to them in bed with the curtains closed so they get my full attention. Therefore, it’s not a time thing. Maybe, it goes back to the extent to which I loved being read to as a child and somehow I find that a lot of the descriptive stuff in novels is so much more appealing on audio than on the written page.

        1. Yes, the latter is very strong, I think anyway, My mother read to me for years and I adored reading to my son. I wonder if he will carry on the tradition is the opportunity presents.

  9. I try to be as concise as I can on my blog for the exact same reason you mention. I’m not convinced blogs are the go-to-place when people want in-depth information. (Certainly not the type of information I supply!) I’m usually put off by very long posts. But I wouldn’t say this shallowness has affected how and what I read from a literature point of view.

    1. David, you’re so humble!
      The trend that’s coming through seems to be that blogs are in a different universe to books. Has me thinking now about Charles Dickens and his serialisations!

  10. Nice to meet you (through blogging friends’ friends). I blog once a week and strive for a well-written post that keeps my readers’ attention within my 500-600 words. Personally, I start to skip when another’s blog post reaches over 700 words. When I sit down to a book, I’m expecting to get into a long story and take my time with it. When I sit in front of the computer to read a blog, I want a short burst of insight, a smart essay, a burst of laughter from a fun paragraph or two. Like you, I have many blogging friends, and I’d like to keep up with them, but not at 1000 words a post!

    1. Hi RW, lovely to meet you and thanks for writing.
      Yes, expectations about blog posts and books are different.
      Maybe there’s a choice to be made in the blogging world between follow a few people who consistently write the 1,000 word + posts or a lot more who write shorter posts of the type you describe.
      Looking forward now to reading your weekly offerings!

      1. Thanks for joining me, as I’m now following you. I think we get to know each other’s posts, and follow those who write well and write with passion and insight, no matter how many words they use. Hugs!

  11. Golly, this post has generated a lot of comments! I think it’s pretty rare for me to write a 1,000 words for a blog post but It does happen occasionally. I think mine are typically about 400 – 500 words. As a reader I’m not bothered about length, but substance is a real issue these days, particularly on media sites, where ‘eyeballs’ count. If I get to the end of a piece and feel I was taken there by link-bait, and the piece is superficial/inaccurate or badly written, I’m annoyed. Good examples of blogs where the posts can often be LONG but absolutely worth reading I think are John Field’s Poor Rude Lines and Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings. Good question, thanks for asking!

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