Thursday Thoughts: Give Your Readers a Break! Please!

Here on LI, I am part of a group / thread that is now talking about how long a blog post “should” be. The range mentioned is from micro (250-500 words) to macro/very long (1,200-5,000+ words), with several weighing in on their preferred length (to write or to read).

I prefer the micro size (250-500), if only because of time. And using more words does not automatically create more interest in a reader: far from it! Too many times I see bloated paragraph after bloated paragraph filled with words that could easily be left out. Or there are two, three, or even four ideas in one post, and what a shame that is! Think of that four-idea post as four separate posts; think of the extra visibility that four posts would bring to the writer!

But no matter how long your post is, you might want to consider these few tips to help your readers. If you help them to read your posts, they’ll likely return. They may even “Like” your post and/or share it. They may follow you or ask to connect.

  • Break your paragraphs into fewer lines! The minute I see a 25-line paragraph, I’m gone. It’s impossible to read successfully when I’m in the middle of such a beast; I keep getting lost. The best paragraphs are no more than 8 lines. Yes, really. Even if you don’t have a new thought, break the paragraph anyway. White space is reassuring because a reader can rest for a bit. And even if you dimly remember some English teacher saying you can’t have a new paragraph if you don’t have a new thought — let it go. We will not judge you. We will bless you.
  • Keep your sentences short as well. No, not only three or four words, but not 34 either. Mix them up, making some short and some long. But overall, keep them to an average of 15-18 words, about a 8th- to 9th-grade reading level. Not too hard for most, but not too simple either. You can try it yourself by using the Flesch-Kincaid formula. It’s also found in Microsoft Word, and it’s a great help to just check what level you’re writing to.
  • Rethink your love for HUGE, multi-syllable words. Although utilize is a perfectly good word, so is use. Why not use enact instead of promulgate, not creativerather than unimaginatively? Using long words is a great way to have readers turn away from you and your writing. And using long words incorrectly (as so many do) can make you look far less smart than you are, and the long words that we readers don’t understand can make us feel dumb.

 

I like the KISS principle myself:
Keep It Short and Simple

  • Get rid of unneeded words. Words like completely, extremely, definitely, really, truly, totally, and very can usually be tossed in the wastebasket. You can also cut out some words in phrases, many of which can be seen here.
We are here on LI (or on beBee or Medium or some other platform) because we have a message. We have something to share with others. We want others to read our posts and enjoy them, learn from them, and/or share them with their connections. Let’s make it easy for our readers to stay with us!

Many thanks to Chris Spurvey and Arnie McKinnis, who started the conversation that sparked this post today.