From time to time, one of our students or readers will share a draft of an email or article or sales page and ask, innocently: “Is this too long?”
And I smile.
I do tend to go long with my words. But it’s not because I’m going for a new high score or something.
I also love short form. Some of my best writing is on Twitter.
The thing to remember is that words have a job.
A single tweet can be better than an entire book, depending on the job.
A 4000 word essay can be better than a one-pager, depending on the job. Both can be right!
So how do you know if you’ve written enough, or too much?
Try asking a different way.
Ask: How do you know if a piece of string is too long?
Or if a piece of string is too short, for that matter?
Like a piece of string, your writing is only too short or too long if it isn’t doing its job.
Similarly, your both a piece of string and your writing are only too long if there’s so much after doing the job that the extra gets in the way.
So instead of asking if it’s too long or too short, ask yourself: what is the job of the words you are writing?
- Does the reader know that the piece is for them?
- Does the reader have a reason to believe you are trustworthy?
- Does the reader feel a sense of progress, or momentum?
- Does the structure make it easy for them to skim ahead and see where it’s going?
- Does the reader leave with a fix for their problem, or a salve for their interest?
- Does the reader know what they can do next, if they want more?
Remember that it’s not the word count that matters, it’s if the words are doing their job.
There's more where that came from
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