Word Cloud of Obama's speech to Congress

Given the context of the Internet and the ease with which we are able to publish content online, there is a certain urge simply to write anything and everything that comes to mind. After all, it doesn’t really cost you any more money to publish a 10,000 word blog as it does for you to publish one with only 500 words. And given that wealth of content, there is a misconception that the longer post is likely the one that is more valuable and more useful.

But that’s not necessarily the case. In fact, it might be the exact opposite.

But Shouldn’t I Just Keep Writing?

It’s true that if you want to improve your writing ability, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to write. Write a lot. While practice may not necessarily make perfect, it does give you an opportunity to hone your skills and you’ll become far more comfortable sitting in front of that keyboard. After a while, writing can feel a lot more natural, just like what would happen when you practice any other skill.

This does not mean, though, that the longer article is necessarily any better. The Internet, as I’ve mentioned, has become a double-edged sword and it has opened up the floodgates to what some people might call verbal diarrhea. The best product reviews are not necessarily the ones that go on for several pages, picking through every minute detail with a fine-toothed comb. Instead, it’s the one that actually provides the reader with the useful information they desire. What comes in the box? How does it perform? How does it compare to its competitors?

The Power of Brevity

The people who came up with slogans like “Just Do It” or “I’m Loving It” made a lot of money by writing just three short words. There is a reason why companies are willing to pay ad agencies so much money to come up with creative and effective slogans, because there is so much money riding on that remarkably short phrase. There is power in brevity. Can you imagine if Nike had a slogan that read like a paragraph? It just wouldn’t make any sense.

To be fair, when someone inquires with me about getting a freelance writing quote, one of the main questions that I will ask is about the word count or page count. I’ve had many e-mails asking how much I charge to write an e-book, for example, but they don’t tell me about the subject matter or their estimated length. Writing an e-book that is 50 pages is an entirely different animal than writing one that is 500 pages. The longer book will take more time.

At the same time, we have to recognize the power of brevity here too. While 50 pages may or may not be a little too far on the slim side, a shorter e-book may actually be more effective for the client, depending on his or her goals with the project. Indeed, it might be more valuable to have five e-books of 100 pages each than to have a single 500-page e-book. This allows for follow-up sales and possibly increased revenue potential.

Should It Always Be Shorter?

Just as we shouldn’t assume that the longer article is the one that is more informative or more useful, we also shouldn’t assume that the shorter is always the way to go. It depends on context, it depends on the audience and it depends on the goal of the piece. The final work has to fit the ultimate objective.

As nice as a super-powered convertible may be, it’s not at all suitable as a road trip vehicle for a family of five, just as an extra large SUV likely isn’t the best idea for the solo urban commuter. Blog posts, articles and e-books are much the same way.