In Praise of Brevity

The fact that I am having rotator cuff issues has me thinking about writing shorter posts. Or, to mash up a quote often misattributed to Mark Twain, “I would have written a shorter piece but I didn’t have that much Aleve.”

Linus pretends to read. A still life.

Some posts are just Too. Damn. Long. As a reader, I can tell if it's too long, because my eye keeps drifting to the right side of the screen to that little bubble that indicates how much more copy I need to wade through. Not good. As a writer, I can tell if it's too long because I'm too excited about what I'm writing about. No one can ever be as excited as a writer succumbing to tangents. Also: Not. Good. There’s constant conversation among SEO engineers and marketers on the ideal length for posts. This stat-heavy piece on analyzing post lengths on Medium is an 8-minute read, if you really want to dive in that far. If not, scroll to the end for a simple go/no-go call on post length. You’re welcome. Some law firm marketers erroneously assume that if a 6-minute post was a breakout hit, all their posts should be 6 minutes. (The average adult reads 265 words per minute. Using those metrics, a 6-minute post is 1,590 words.) That’s flawed logic, of course. There are numerous reasons why a post becomes an outlier, and not all of them are obvious. Don’t assume that because one deep dive succeeds, your readers want a constant stream of them. Pick up your topic without preamble, say what you need to say succinctly, and then Get. Out. Rest a bit, then edit ruthlessly. None of us are Victor Hugo. Busy readers will not survive a lengthy trip through the Parisian sewers to return to our narrative, no matter how gripping.

--stet-- Susan Kostal is a legal marketing consultant and content strategist located in San Francisco Bay Area. Find her monthly column on Attorney at Work & check out more great content here. This post originally appeared in Susan Kostal's Legal Marketing Bits & Bites Newsletter. Sign up for more content here.

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