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The long and the short of writing for the web

Last Updated on September 29, 2020.

Get straight to the point with the fewest words. Cut your online word count to about 50% of the words you would use when writing for print.

This is what your online readers prefer. Every word imposes a cognitive load on your reader’s brain.  They have to read then interpret each word’s meaning in the context of your sentence. Save them a waste of energy by eliminating unnecessary words.

If you are writing in-depth on a topic, you will necessarily write a long piece.  The principle here is to eliminate unnecessary words, regardless of the length of your article or post.

Being concise takes effort

I am sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn’t have time to write a short one. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Writing concisely takes more effort than just writing whatever comes into your head. It’s a bit like the art of writing emails. Find a way to get your point across with as few words as possible.

How to reduce your word-count

First, write your article or post without worrying about word-count.  Don’t be self-critical – it is important not to block the flow when you have a creative idea. When you finish, review your article to make it concise:-

  • Revise complex sentences to make them simpler, more direct and shorter
  • Remove unnecessary words and sentences
  • Avoid redundant words and phrases such as City of Chicago, Month of June, the whole group (the group is the whole group)

Useful apps

There are apps to help you do this such as grammarly and-  The grammarly app picks up your spelling errors as well as grammatical errors. You can use the hemingway app for free online by pasting your content over the sample text.  This app will:-

  • Highlight your complex sentences which need revision
  • Highlight unnecessary words
  • Provide a word count
  • Make suggestions as you type

This app works according to an automated formula. It lacks an understanding of poetic license or the need to evoke emotions in your readers. There may be times you will want to override its recommendations.

Word count – recommended minimum for search engines

There is a 300 word recommended minimum for Google and other search engines – some say 500.  Some say you are not likely to rank well in search engine results if your article is less than 300 words long.

Articles which cover a topic in-depth and are as long as 2,000 words are said to rank better in search engines if they are rich in relevant keyword phrases.

Ultimately, I believe it is best to write for your audience and not for Google and other search engines.

Revision, revision, revision is the key

Each time you come back to review your content, even years after first writing it, you may find ways to improve it.

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