An exercise in brevity

Brevity is an important goal in online writing. Longer posts can be intimidating. Many visitors will only scan long posts at best. The theory is that online readers have relatively short attention spans. Of course, there are exceptions, but in general I think it is good advice to think small. Keep it simple and clear. And when it comes to editing: when it doubt, cut it out.
 
It should be stated that some bloggers, especially those with loyal return visitors, have been successful with longer (1,000+ word) posts.  But even these bloggers would be well advised to intersperse their longer posts with shorter ones. Varying the length of posts is a useful technique to keep your visitors happy.
If you decide that you’d like to reduce the length of your posts, consider this:
 
  • Chunking or grouping items into bulleted listshelps break up long posts into digestible bits.
  • Pictures,subheads, and white spaceare also helpful for reducing the grey.
  • Links are anotheruseful toolto shorten longer posts.
  • Unnecessary words should be deleted (12 midnight should beedited to justmidnight).
  • Fifteen words is a good goal for sentence length. More than 25 words is usually too long.
  • Keep paragraphs short
  • Pull Quotes and infographics are useful to add interest
  • Add color for emphasis
  • Consider breaking up long posts into a series of posts.
 
Below is a passage written in the Workbook for News Reporting and Writing, by the Missouri Group in 2005. Consider how to shorten this post without losing any necessary information:
 
The party of the first part, hereinafter known as Jack, and the party of the second part, hereinafter known as Jill, ascended or caused to be ascended an elevation of undetermined height and degree of slope, hereinafter refereed to as “hill.” Whose purpose it was to obtain, attain, procure, secure, or otherwise gain acquisition to, by any and-or all means available to them a receptacle or container, hereinafter known as “pail,” suitable for the transport of a liquid whose chemical properties shall be limited to hydrogen and oxygen, the propositions of which shall not be less than or exceed two parts for the first mentioned element and one part for the latter. Such combinations will hereinafter be call “water.”

 

 
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6 comments

  1. Never use a big word when a diminutive one will do. :^D

  2. the shorter the sweeter. back when I was a reporter, an editor once pointed out that when I hadn’t done enough reporting, I wrote longer and windier. Now I tell the same to my researcher colleagues when I’m editing their work. these are great tips.

  3. I constantly struggle with this when I’m trying to prepare my rants and reviews… very helpful tips. 🙂

  4. hey, Dr. Rob, long time no see. I got a bunch of hits yesterday from this comment and also saw you were a visitor on a few sites I was visiting so it reminded me of you!

    I should have linked to this excellent post here. next time! hope you’re well.

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