Write Short Articles — Nobody Reads Anything Else

December 19, 2010

Summary:
Write articles in 600 words or less. Many readers will avoid longer articles.


People read only about 20% of your text and even less if your article exceeds 600 words.

You spent days composing a brilliantly concise 600-word article?

Well then good news: If your readers are feeling charitable, they might bequeath to you a generous 46 seconds of their time to scan it:

Jakob Nielsen's research shows that people don't read -- they scan.

People are busy, lazy, and they don’t trust you enough to assume it’s worth reading your longer articles.

If you hear Bill Gates say…

Warren Buffett has taught me a lot about business and wisdom in life. I encourage you to read his letters to shareholders.

…Then you might be willing to read Buffett’s 18-page letter. (Though you’d more likely read a summary.)

But you’re not Warren Buffett. And neither am I.

Until we are endorsed by the Gates’ of our fields, we’ll have to write short articles if we want to hold onto a lingering faith in humanity to read the damn things.

Louis! You must stop writing articles beyond 600 words!

You'll forgive me if I have a lingering respect for attention spans beyond 46 seconds!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

WiseNinja December 19, 2010 at 4:40 pm

Very true Kevin! Anything over a page I typically hit “read later” (instapapper) and it’s gone forever. Of course, the master of brevity http://sethgodin.typepad.com/

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Kevin Kane December 20, 2010 at 12:29 am

Thanks Ninja.

As great as Godin is, there are two problems with this posts:

1. He needs to write some longer, more in-depth posts. Godin is pithy, but sometimes he just intrigues you without providing any “how-to” tips.

You’re inspired, but he hasn’t advised you what to do.

2. When he does write longer posts, they’re often just lists. A December 16 posts reads, “I’ve been to a bunch [of retreats] and here’s what I’ve learned, in no particular order.”

Then he lists 20 bullet points. That is ineffective and terribly lazy. He needs to emphasize one key message in a post. Not 20 random bullets.

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Kevin Kane April 9, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I’ve read some of Seth Godin’s insightful books since I made the comment above.

Now I feel bad for nitpicking some of his posts. In hindsight, it feels like I criticized god.

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