How long should my newsletter or article be?

As promised, I will reprint one of Paul Myers’ newsletter issues.
I have his (exceptional) permission to do so.
Here’s Part 1.
Please, also read the PS.


 

TalkBiz News Tuesday, July 17, 2007

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Subject: Are you really that boring?

Hi, folks!

Just one article today. One that’s needed writing for a long time. If you create any sort of content for the web, or you’re tired of being talked to like you’re an idiot by “experts,” you’ll enjoy this issue.

Feel free to pass this one around. But only to your smart friends. 😉

On with the show…
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How Long is “Too Long?”

There’s a discussion that comes up all the time on the forums and in various lists. The question that starts it is a sensible one and usually asked by sensible people. The answers, however, especially from so-called “experts,” can be really annoying. That magic question is:

How long should my newsletter or article be?

The answers that make me wonder if there’s any actual effort of thought behind them are the ones that say, “You can’t go over 350 (or 500 or 750) words. People won’t read them.”

I’m often tempted to respond to those with, “Well, maybe if you’d learn to say something interesting you wouldn’t have that problem!”

That would be rude. So, I just think it.

But it’s true.

….

Before I go any further, I want to point out that I don’t think articles have to be long to be effective. If you can say what you need to say in 350 words or less, do it. Don’t waste people’s time just to show off your writing skills. That’s rude, too.

But if you need more space to communicate your ideas clearly, use it.

Don’t worry… the electrons are all recycled.

And if an article directory or publisher says that submissions must be X-hundred to Y-hundred-and-fifty words to be used in their site or sent to their subscribers, well, it just has to be that length. Their service, their rules.

That’s life in the Very Big City.

…. The justification for the arbitrary 350-750 word guideline is usually one of these little beauties:

“People get buried in so much email they won’t read anything longer than that.”

Sure people get a lot of email. What they don’t get is a lot of relevant, useful, interesting email. They’ll put that stuff right at the top of the list.

“People just don’t have the time for longer articles.”

Nonsense. What they don’t have time for is yet another copy- and-paste promotion for the flavor of the week. If they know it will be interesting, they’ll make the time.

“The average person online doesn’t have the attention span for more than that.”

When I hear this one, I just want to slap the person saying it. (If you’ve ever said that, slap yourself for me, wouldja?)

What? We get computers and suddenly we’re all stupid? Yeah. Yeah, that makes sense. It’s all so clear to me now.

Condescending, sanctimonious sons of…

To anyone who’s ever used that as a justification for short- changing people on information that can help them live better, I would like to offer these thoughts:


Read more in Are you really that boring? Part 2.

Oh, and if you’re really smart, you sign up for TalkBiz News

PS
The original title of the issue was: Are you really that boring?
To draw attention to the actual topic of the issue, I used ‘How long should my newsletter or article be? in my title.
However, to do justice to the article, the next issues will contain the title ‘Are you really that boring?




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