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How long should an Article be?

As I sit and write this article the irony is not lost on me that I have no idea of how long this article will be. :) There are as many opinions of this subject, as there are writers of blogs, articles and Press Releases.  This idea that there is an appropriate length, a magic number of words that people will read and feel as if they have gotten the information they seek, while not getting board and leave, seems to be a false standard to me.

While it is true you don’t want to write a book in one single article, you still need to get all of your information out in an easily readable chunk.  I think the real question is not “how long should the article be?” but more accurately “how do I make sure people will read the whole article?”

There is the real question in a nutshell.  The article CAN be as long as a book, IF it’s the information they need and are interested in. Yet you can still lose the reader if it is not done right.  I can see some eyes glazing over out there so I will place a small “don’t do this” list right here to draw you into the next section on things you need to do.

  1. Don’t Babble – Stay on target!
  2. Don’t talk above your readership. – If you know your audience you, know how they like to be talked with, don’t go over their heads and sound like Star Trek if that is not who they are.
  3. Don’t write an article just for SEO – writing pages just for search engines will make them unreadable for your readership.
  4. Don’t write your articles in someone else’s voice. – There can be a real disconnect from your subject matter if you are not writing as yourself.
  5. Don’t forget to be yourself. Your passion for your services, product and company will be lessened if you are not talk (writing) as you would talk.

This small list is by no means an end-all-be-all Don’t list, but It is a big start.  Follow on to the next page to see the “do” list and a few more suggestions of how to improve your readership.

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Discussion

4 Responses to “How long should an Article be?”

  1. Hey Shannon,

    When you talk about articles I don’t think of blog posts. To me, this piece is a blog post and not an article so I have a different opinion.

    Articles should be between 300 to 500 words and your blog posts should be as long as you feel is needed in order to say what you need to say. Like you mentioned here, you need to write in your own voice because that’s how people will be able to relate to you.

    I don’t enjoy reading very long blog posts unless they are jam packed with great information or they’re telling a story and I’m intrigued. That’s just my personal opinion but I’m sure other people may be different.

    By the way, I see you installed the Socialize plug-in. It looks great but your Twitter ID is not connected to your Twitter account. You might want to check that out. Your Twitter ID is @hippocampus right! You have it set up here as @socializeWP which is a plug-in. Just FYI!
    Adrienne recently posted…Are You Pinging Your Content?My Profile

    Posted by Adrienne | January 30, 2012, 4:18 pm
  2. Adrienne,
    Thank you for your pointing out I missed a setting in the buttons! (cringe) That is fixed now. I understand why you make a distinction between an article and a post, but in my mind content is content. Unless you are thinking an article as an old school newspaper article. That would hold for me, but not for a magazine article. so there are a few different ways of looking at the term article. This is at least where I was coming from with this piece. Thanks again for pointing out the plugin mistake!

    Posted by Marketing Doctor | January 30, 2012, 4:54 pm
  3. Hey,

    If you are talking about blog posts; then there are many ways this can be looked at. Interviews might be longer than normal posts. Posts about setting up something or installing a plug in or something similar can again be quite long because they tend to be explanatory in nature. But for general topics, I think 500 – 700 can be quite appropriate.

    But then, I have read posts over 2400 words and they were very interesting! So, it just goes to say that the work should be captivating, and once that is done; it doesn’t matter how long or short it is!
    Hajra recently posted…Will they call you over for a bloggers party?My Profile

    Posted by Hajra | January 31, 2012, 11:30 am
  4. Hajra,

    I agree completely.

    Posted by Marketing Doctor | January 31, 2012, 12:25 pm

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