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July 21, 2011

What’s Your Blogging Style?

Mannequin heads with men's hair styles

Last week, Cheryl Reif asked the question on her blog:  Short or Long? Which Way to Post…  She wondered if people preferred reading blog posts that weighed in at the “recommended” 300 words, or if people enjoyed longer posts.

Anyone who reads my blog knows I don’t follow the 300 word formula.  *cough*  In fact, my posts probably average around 700 words.

As I commented on Cheryl’s blog, I’m okay with my post length because most of the 300 word posts feel too short to be useful to me.  I agree with her reason for liking longer posts:

Why do I read these writers’ posts even though they take a bit of time to digest? Because they provide real information, not just brain ticklers.

“Brain tickler” is a great phrase to describe those short posts.  They make enough of a point to tickle our brain and then the post ends.

What Makes a Post Memorable?

I have just enough scientific knowledge about brain function to be dangerous.  *smile*  So I know we remember things better when the concept relates to something we already know.  Like a lattice, our brain wants to attach new information to facts it already has in storage.  The more connections between new knowledge and old knowledge, the stronger the web of understanding.

I’ve seen in my own memory that brain tickler posts often don’t have enough context to connect the point of the article to anything else.  Could a reader sit and think about it for a longer period of time to create those connections?  Sure.  Especially if a reader leaves a comment, we know they’re processing the information on a deeper level.

But the other readers, the ones not commenting,  the ones just reading for the superficial words on the screen,  they’re more likely to forget our point as soon as they close that tab in their browser.  After their half-second of processing, the knowledge we gave them will float away because they haven’t connected the idea to anything else in their brain.

Are Short Posts Worthless?

I think short posts have their place, however.  Short posts can be a great way to introduce a question and kick off a conversation in the comments.

And we love quick chuckles, like from xkcd.com.  Especially this one, which has inspired a family joke in my house:

Someone Is Wrong on the Internet

But if we’re trying to share information and get our readers to think, longer posts can help our readers learn the knowledge.

Is “Short or Long Posts?” the Wrong Question?

Maybe the question isn’t, are longer posts “better” than shorter posts (or vice versa)?  Maybe we first need to answer what we’re trying to accomplish with our blog post.  Then the question becomes, what type of blog post will help us reach that goal?

Personally, my teacher-at-heart style leads me to longer posts where I can share information and make you all think.  Heh.  I approach blog posts the same way I write my fiction—digging deep enough to leave an impression.

On the other hand, I don’t want to overwhelm my readers.  When my posts go longer than 700 words, I strive to use shorter paragraphs and bullet points whenever possible.  Besides, my Tuesday/Thursday posting schedule averages 300 words a day over a Monday-Friday schedule.  *snicker*

So for my personality and my goals, longer and more infrequent posts work for me.  But everyone has different goals, so my approach is not for everyone.

Like most things in writing, there is no “right” or “wrong.”  We shouldn’t try to write shorter or longer posts simply because we think that would be “better.”  Instead, we each need to figure out what’s best for us and our individual needs.

P.S.  The content of this post weighs in at 619 words.

P.P.S.  Don’t forget to check out the #PotterChat blog hop.  We’ve been having fun Twitter chats and tomorrow is the big day for entering the scavenger hunt.  I’m offering a beta read as one of the prizes, so I’d love for some of my readers to win.

Do you prefer short or long posts?  What makes you read posts even when they’re long?  Are you more likely to comment on one type of post over the other?  Have you noticed that one type of post makes you think more or remember better?

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Todd Moody

Post length isn’t all that important to me, either reading or writing. As long as it’s interesting I’ll keep reading, as long as I have the time. Sometimes I don’t have time for a long read and will mark it to come back to later. Jami, you are the teacher, but I guess I am the student, that is one of the reasons I love the internet so much, there is so much new and interesting content everyday and most of the sites I go to are news and information sites. As far as blogging I don’t have a word count in mind. I say what I want to say then stop. I reorganized my blog the other day and found that some of my posts are very short and some are long, but most are somewhere in the middle. I hope this doesn’t have anything profound to say about my novel writing style. =)

Great post as always!

Patrick Thunstrom

My blog posts are usually as long as it takes to explore my topic. Most days, it’s 300 words or so. Others, I’ve gone as high as 700. In general, I feel if it takes more than that, it’d work better as a series of shorter posts, which can interconnect and share information in ways that the reader is comfortable with, allowing them to skip portions they already are familiar with.

I do think that posts need to come in on the shorter end, in general. Some blogs I read put up multiple-thousand word posts that I just can’t read through most days, between all the blogs I follow. Opportunity cost is a big thing for readers.

Joyce Alton

I don’t think about length so much as the subject and quality of the blog post.

(This is one reason why I like to read your blog.)

Barbara Watson

Post length is a big deal to me. If I scroll down or press ‘read more’ and see a post is long, I skim read – to ingest the jist – but time is key for me. I know there are many worthy long blog entries, and some I bookmark for later, but it all comes down to time for me. So I don’t mind brain ticklers. Often they are just what I need.

Susan Sipal

I definitely fall at the long end of the scale. In fact, I don’t even know what my average word count is because I’m too afraid to check. 🙁

I try to break my posts down into the smallest segment that still makes sense, but to get the in-depth coverage I want, it just takes words. However, when I was at Leaky, I was introduced to another blogger who is wildly popular. When I look at his posts, they dwarf min!

So, maybe it’s all about the proper content for the fitting audience?

I love your lattice analogy. :-()

Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

That wig pic is hilarious, by the way:)
I tend to like shorter posts…that being said, there are a few exceptions to the rule. I surf around, when I have some free time away from my WIP and find blogs on Twitter or FB that I click on just for the heck of it. Often, in doing so, I get a brain tickle when I read those randomly selected blogs. Even more often I get no tickle at all…not even a brain scratch.
But, my regular blog visits, the ones I have saved as favorites on my computer are another story all together. These blogs are the ones that don’t just tickle, but stroke, rub, hug, embrace, and slather my brain with big, hearty info smooches! Is that gross, turning your cute brain tickle reference into an wonderfully affectionate kiss?
Oh well, maybe so, but it’s true. I get so much out of your blog, Kristen Lamb’s blog, Bob Mayer, Donald Maas, Petit Fours and Hot Tamales, that I don’t care about word count.
All I care about is whether or not your smooches make my brain go WOOOOHOOOO!!!
🙂
Keep posting just the way you do. I’m a big fan.
Have a great afternoon,
Tamara

J. M. Dow
J. M. Dow

Good lord…I didn’t know about the 300 rule. I think my posts are, like, 3 times that…

I don’t know why, but I’m just naturally verbose. (See? Nobody but a verbose person uses words like “verbose.) Anyway, my blog entries tend to run very long. However, I illustrate some of them, and I’d like to think that carries people through the posts.

As for what I prefer to read, it depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes short posts are too short. However, if the blogger posts multiple times throughout the day, then I prefer that they have shorter posts. If each post is a novel, I don’t think I’d have the time to read it. But if the post, say, twice a week? I don’t mind reading the longer posts at all. I actually enjoy it. I like to explore topics and see what conclusions the authors come to, and if I agree or disagree, I can begin formulating what I want to say as I read.

Raelyn Barclay

Ha! My mind must be in the gutter this morning as my first thought was “size doesn’t matter…”

My feeling is when you post daily (or mostly) the length should vary but if you’re only posting a few times a week I want to see the topic explored and expect a longer post.

Excellent post!

Mary Kate Leahy
Mary Kate Leahy

I agree with you about the longer post/shorter post dilemma. I think shorter posts can be great, but for some things they don’t make sense. For example, a book review. The review shouldn’t be as long as the book, but some reviews I read on sites dedicated to this have been one or two short paragraphs. I don’t think there is enough meat on that to really make it a substantial review. The same applies if you are dealing with a complex writing concept, or some other hefty topic. If the writing and the topic are compelling the audience will read it. And if not I think people are just as apt to stop reading a boring short post as a boring long one.

Thanks for the great post :).

J. A. Paul

“Besides, my Tuesday/Thursday posting schedule averages 300 words a day over a Monday-Friday schedule. *snicker*”

I have now officially started reading your blog in half day chunks. 🙂

I tend to skim longer post thus missing out on the whole deeper thinking (or rambling) thing. It’s a how do I want to spend my time issue. But thanks to your snickering comment I don’t have to worry about missing your blog!

Interesting too how most comments refer to how they write their blog vs how they read blogs.

Cherie

Post length is irrelevant to me. What’s more important, at least to me, is the content. I don’t scroll down to check out the length first anyway, so I wouldn’t know if it’s incredibly long. I’ve read excellent posts that are really long but because I enjoyed the read, I didn’t even notice the length. Short ones are fine too, if they’re supposed to be just “short and sweet” or funny posts. Little reminders, a fun info the blogger wanted to share, a comic, an anecdote…anything that makes me smile and brightens my day a little is a pleasure.

What would probably bug me the most is if it’s a LONG post that sucks. But my blogger friends are mostly wonderful, brilliant writers, so I have yet to turn away from a post that I don’t care a brain cell about.

I read this post and didn’t even notice the length until you told us how many words there were. 😉 And even then, after 619 words, it was worth my time. 🙂

Melinda Collins

Post lengths never really bother me too much. It depends on the information that’s being shared within the post that drives me to either read the entire post, skim through it, and ultimately comment on the post.

When it comes to writing my own posts, I just go until I feel I’ve gotten my point across and that I’ve shared enough info about the subject.

As always, wonderful post, Jami!! 🙂

Lani Wendt Young

Hi Jami – another thought provoking post. When Im pressed 4 time , then i skim read blogs EXCEPT for a blogger that i worship/adore. Then i will read whatever they write, no matter how long.

For me, like most writers, my problem is cutting down words. I try to vary my blog posts – short ( a question, a short teaser, a brief experience( alternated with my longer ones. Seems to work for me and my readers.
Thank you.

M.E. Anders
M.E. Anders

Since I subscribe to so many blogs, I do prefer shorter posts. If there is a longer post, I tend to scan it for the major points before leaving a cogent comment.

My readers enjoy both shorter and longer posts. Recently, I have tried out some vlogging, which I really enjoy. 🙂

Sonia Lal

If I am reading, as long the post is interesting, I don’t care about post length. Or at least not a lot. If I know I don’t have time, I won’t read it.

My own blog posts are in the 300 – 500 range. Most of them. I’ve had a few that are in the 1000+ range, but those are mostly flash fiction.

Sometimes I start essays and don’t post them, because I think, do I really want to post a 1000+ word essay?

Kimberly Kinrade

Great post! And just the right length! *Grins*

I’ve heard the ideal length for blog posts is 500-700 words, unless it’s fiction. So you seem right on track with yours. Shorter posts are fun for certain things, like you mentioned, but in the end, if I’m taking time to read something, I want to get something from it!

Thanks Jami!

Lynn Rush

Great post. I love these points. My first social media class I ever took said posts should be 200-300 words and after that you start losing the reader. That seems short to a lot of people. I kind of like that range, but sometimes I go a bit over. 🙂

I love reading about this stuff to see the thoughts and how other people do their blogging!

Lisa Gail Green

I never thought about actual word count. I do know that some longer posts just make me cross my eyes and skim. But I really think that has more to do with the layout as you pointed out. Using bullet points, etc makes a huge difference.

Gene Lempp

Like a story or novel, I think the content and intent of a blog post determines the length. The instructional series I do typically runs 1000-1300 words, mashups & guest posts at 600-700. Both work fine based on the type of content. And in reality content is king/queen.

As for what I read, and those that know me know I read a lot, I’d say the same. A 300 word post, targeted on a single point can work fine. Yet, I don’t care about length if the content is good. I’ve read some 2500 word posts (re: Kristen Lamb) but when the content is worth it (and Kristen’s always is) then the length is irrelevant.

Interesting post, Jami. Hoping I kept this comment under 300 words 🙂

Laura Pauling

Honestly? I care more about content than I do how long or short it is!

Tahlia Newland

Like yours, my posts tend to come in around 600- 700 but I try to dot point or do main point headings in bold so people with little time can scan them easily. I like this length because it gives the author time to get into the topic, shorter posts can be good if they’re humorous or snappy in that the substance is still there without the word count, but a site that only gives really short posts tends to lose my interest. I get the feeling that the author doesn’t have anything very substantial to say.

Sonia G Medeiros

I don’t mind long posts as long as the text is mostly broken up into smaller chunks. Of course, if the topic is interesting to me, I’m much more likely to read a long post. Sometimes short posts pack a great punch…but I think you’re right, a longer post might have more information and make stronger connections. I hadn’t really thought about it before. Now, I’ll have to pay attention and see.

Brooke Johnson

hahaha. 300 words? pft.

I don’t think I can write a blog post less than 800 words. Most of mine run about 1000-1200 words, sometimes longer. Depends how much I have to say. I used to write short posts on Wednesdays, but I think, like you say, you can’t really *say* much in 300 words. You might be able to bring up a point, but you can’t really elaborate on it. It’s just there, a statement, a fact.

Honestly, I enjoy reading longer posts, the ones that make me think or teach me something. I read so fast that the short posts–two or three paragraphs–just sort of evaporate by the time I click on the next blog to read.

Kristen Lamb’s blog posts are rather long, I think, but I enjoy reading her blog. It’s one of my favorites. As is Chuck Wendig’s blog, and he tends to write lengthy posts.

I tend to prefer shorter posts by people that I don’t already follow–links shared through Twitter, for instance. For people I care to read what they have to say, I could read a 10,000 word post, and it wouldn’t faze me.

Morgen Bailey

Hi Jami (saw this shortcut on Twitter – I’m @morgenwriteruk).
I’d say it’s all about quality not quantity. My posts tend to be long /long-ish, especially the blog interviews (would you like to take part? :)) which average 2,000 words! They’ve been really popular which just goes to show that people are prepared to read something that interests them. I don’t post what I’m having for tea (I don’t even put that on Twitter) but provide interesting (I hope) and useful information such as competitions to enter, other websites to visit etc. They say that variety is the spice of life and if all someone says is “buy my book” (or in my case “check out my podcast” :)) then people are going to switch off and remember your name for all the wrong reasons.
Take care
Morgen

Deri Ross
Deri Ross

I have to confess my own posts seem quite long. Like most of the comments, when it comes to reading other’s posts, it is the content that counts to me. And I do the skimming thing first. If the post is extremely long, but seems interesting, I favorite it in my Google reader so I can go back and give it a proper read. Honestly, if it’s really, really short, I sometime disregard it as being trivial (which is shallow, I know). Unless it has a catchy graphic or title or SOMETHING, it can get overlooked.

I try to put a little humor in the beginning of my posts, so that even if only the first paragraph shows up in someone’s reader, they want to click over and finish it. Of course, my blog is practically a newborn, so I have no idea if anything I’m doing is working. I’m just trying to learn from what I experience with other blogs.

On a rather ironic note, I actually referenced this post in my own latest post, which was firmly on the long side of the fence. 😉

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