Words on a Page Writings about writing

Should your blog posts be long or short?

A man using a tape measure

Over the last few years, I’ve heard people bandy about 1,200 to 1,500 words as the optimal length of a blog post. Someone once told me that blog posts of that length are the most shareable.

I’m not sure why that is. I figure that all blog posts are shareable, as long as they’re well written and as long as they contain useful or interesting information. That, to me, is the real key to attracting readers to your blog and to keep them coming back. That, to me, is the real key to making blog posts shareable.

You shouldn’t stress about stretching your blog posts out to the so-called optimal length or about cutting them down to smaller, more easily consumed size. Long and short blog posts both have their advantages.

Go long

Aside from fitting into the supposed ideal of how long a blog post should be, writing longer blog posts allows you to go into more depth. You can add more examples and case studies, form stronger arguments, and build a more cohesive whole.

Of course, you run into the problem of TL;DR (short for Too Long; Didn’t Read). For the most part, the TL;DR problem lies with many readers rather than what you’ve written. That said, you should try to keep your longer posts to a manageable length. My longer posts run 1,500 to 1,800 words at the most.

If you find yourself going longer than that, seriously consider either:

  • Heavily editing and rewriting the post, or
  • Breaking it into two shorter posts

Go short

The main advantage to short posts is speed — in both writing and reading. More in the reading than the writing, at least in most cases.

Believe it or not, writing a short post (and by that, I mean one 800 words or under) can be more difficult than writing a long post. With a short blog post, you need focus your argument. You need to pare everything down to the essentials. You need to write tightly and concisely while keeping your writing interesting. And that’s not as easy as it sounds.

If you write a short post well, more than a few of your readers will thank you. They can quickly get the information they need or can quickly be entertained. Your readers, and you, can use a short post as the jumping-off point for going into more depth — either with a follow up that you write or by pointing them to other resources on the web.

How to choose

It’s not a conscious choice.

As I keep saying and writing, a blog post should be as long as it needs to be. No longer, no shorter. If you can say what you need to say in 400 words, then use 400 word. If you need 2,000 words to make your point, then by all means use 2,000 words.

That, I believe, should be the guiding principle when you write blog posts. Don’t try to pad a post to reach someone’s supposed ideal length. Those extra words aren’t doing anything except cramming unneeded bulk into your writing.

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