Blogging is a wonderful creative outlet, as well as a source of emotional catharsis and a way to get across some sort of message, whether your blog is for business, pleasure, or something in between. Blogs are also attractive because they can be revised and published instantly. Even after publishing a post, one can go back weeks later to edit it, which isn’t possible with a printed document.
Because of this, it’s easy to think blogging has no rules. Blogs don’t have to be written with certain specifications in mind or in special formats.
However, all bloggers want readers, and so they ask questions to help gain readership. One such question is, “How long should my blog post be?” The temptation might be to answer, “As long as you need,” but in many cases, that’s too broad. Sometimes, it’s simply not true. Different bloggers have different needs, as does their work, and as do their readers. Therefore, here are a few things to remember when checking your posts for length and making them attractive to readers.
The type of blog you write will dictate length. For example, if your blog is political commentary, you can get away with longer posts, but if you’re a cook posting recipes, the text will be shorter. Yet, not every post has a “type” or parameters. Let’s say, for instance, that you are a traveler. You want to write about your recent trip to London or Paris, but you’re not sure what format you want. You wonder if readers will want pictures and captions or if they’d prefer to read the hilarious story of how you got trapped on the subway with a team of smelly rugby players.
In that case, you may condense the story and add pictures, or write out the whole story because that’s the kind of thing you most want prospective travelers to remember. It’s up to you, but if you choose to write a lot of text, make sure you’ve aimed the blog toward readers who enjoy that. In other words, don’t stick a long post into the mix after several short ones.
Before you post, think about what you want to say. No, you don’t need to outline the whole post as if it were an essay, but you also don’t want to ramble. For example, say you write a blog about disability issues and advocacy, and you’re sick of the low expectations placed on people with disabilities. Great, but be careful. Without a theme, you’ll just rant.
Find the core of your message and work outward. If the message is, “We should raise our expectations for these kids,” keep that firmly in mind. Make all your examples back that up. Do your research and place it within the post in areas that make sense. Once you’ve found your core and expressed it, stop writing. A good rule is, if you notice repetition of ideas, you’re straying from the theme and may need to cut.
Some readers like long text blocks, but we’re still a technologically-driven society that likes instant gratification. Keep this in mind. A lot of readers will stop mid-post if you go over the threshold of, say, 500 words. Again, that’s not a hard and fast rule. Part of having a blog is having the freedom to say what you want, but you may need to break that into chunks. One of the best ways to do this is through a bulleted or numbered list. Some blog posts, like ones focused on recipes or home projects, lend themselves well to this, but they can work in other areas, too. For example, maybe you’re a reader who wants to use your blog to review books. You could use two bulleted lists per review: one that explains what you enjoyed in a book, and one that explains what you didn’t enjoy or what could be improved.
Of course, one list might be longer than the other depending on your rating of the book, but that’s okay. Lists don’t have to match up, although it’s good if they do. So before you write, think about whether anything in your topic could be broken into a list, as in, Five Reasons to Read The Giver Before Seeing the Film.
Most good pieces of writing need intros and conclusions, and this is true of a blog post. Even if you have faithful readers who know you, they still want these anchors in posts. An intro and conclusion let them know what they can expect from your next topic and when you will have successfully said it. Intros and conclusions can also be funny, creative, or give readers something new to ponder. However, don’t go on too long with them.
They aren’t the meat of your post. One short (3-5 sentence) paragraph is probably best for an intro, unless you’re introducing a concept most readers aren’t familiar with, like how to prepare dough for pain au chocolat. Yet, you still don’t want to exceed two short paragraphs. Conclusions can be much shorter–about three sentences per paragraph will do it. By then, your reader has gotten what he or she came to your blog for and is ready to move on.
Some blog posts are long, and that’s fine. For example, in a political commentary-driven post, there might be ten reasons you want to give your reader for educating himself about the Crimea. Remember, though, that every post needs a good pace, especially long ones. As mentioned, if you double-check your post and find repetition, it’s a good sign you’re rambling.
Also, keep in mind that you need not spill everything you know about a topic into a blog post. For example, let’s go back to that post about low expectations for kids with disabilities. It may be that you’ve seen different versions of this based on disability–the kid with Down Syndrome being shortchanged less than the kid with autism, for a few different reasons. Fine, but resist the urge to talk about all disabilities, or all reasons, in one post. Your reader will get tired.
Your elementary school teachers taught you to double-check your work, and they were right. Always double-check before posting, for length as well as spelling and grammar. If your post is over about 1000-1200 words, it’s likely time to cut. As Faulkner said, kill all your darlings. If you’re in love with that phrase, it likely needs to be deleted or at least tweaked. If you wrote seven reasons or tips and only need five, be ruthless. There are also several little words you often don’t need. “Very,” “just,” and “probably” are three of the big offenders, and several more exist. Simply cutting words, if not whole sentences, will make your posts more accessible.
Blog posts can be tricky to write well because it seems as if there are no rules for them. Length in particular can be a pain to deal with. Tips like these, however, can help you make your posts accessible and enjoyable for more readers.