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7 Ways to Know When You Should Chop Off Long Articles

Recently I got my first “TL;DR” comment on a blog post. If we’re being completely honest, I had no idea what it meant. I also had no clue that I should have seen this before now. Losing some web cred then, and even more now as I admit it on this blog, I took to Google for a definition.

This popular web comment is a short way of telling the writer that their article was longer than it needed to be, or it wasn’t formatted in a way that was easy to read. It was “too long” and they “didn’t read” the whole thing.

I’m lucky that nobody had posted this acronym for “Too Long; Didn’t Read” long before now, but I’m sure it’s been thought. In fact, I re-read the article and said to myself, “well, they have a point”.

So in an effort to make this a quick read, let’s run through a short list of seven opportunities you have to quit blathering and get to the point.

1. When your eyes glaze over in editing: When you’re reading your article over and you find yourself glazing over certain parts, reconsider how important those paragraphs really are.

2. When you post daily: Writing 1500 words every day gets overwhelming for your readers, especially the ones who are keeping up with you in their RSS readers. Save the blockbuster posts for once or twice a week so that people make time to pay attention.

3. When you don’t have a story to tell: Storytelling in blog posts has proven to keep the attention of more readers until the end of an article. However, if you don’t have an interesting story to tell, don’t make one up, just get to the point.

4. When you have nothing to sell: Long-form journalism is great at selling products. Whether it’s a magazine with an article too long to read at the checkout counter, or a conference that requires a lot of convincing—the more words, the better. However, if you’re offering a quick tip, then stick to a quick tip format!

5. When you have nothing more to say: A list of five really insightful tips are better than a list of thirty that readers will just scan through. Make your point quickly. Some stories only take 300 words, while others will keep readers on the edge of their seats for 1000 or more. Remove everything that’s uninteresting.

6. When it’s better off as a series: Longer posts tend to get more comments and social virality when they’re considered comprehensive guides. This doesn’t mean it needs to all fit on one page though. That’s what hyperlinks are for. Creating a comprehensive series, instead of a single post, gives you the flexibility to elaborate more in each section too.

7. When you have a lot of keywords to use: If you have similar keywords you want to rank for, spread them out by writing shorter, niche posts for each one, instead of sticking them all on one page and walking away.

How do you read your articles? Do you find yourself becoming more impatient with reading longer blog posts? Or is it just about good writing and take-aways?

Posted in Audience Development Strategy

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5 thoughts on “7 Ways to Know When You Should Chop Off Long Articles

  1. Marcin says:

    Statistics do show that people tend to read short, bullet-pointed blogs much more often than the long deep ones. Which is a little bit unfortunate, in my opinion, as blogging has become much more shallow over the past few years. But there’s nothing one can do about it, the less attention span we have, the harder it is for us to focus on a long article. And who has time anyway?

    I’m glad you mentioned interlinking, where one can expand on ideas not discussed in a certain blog.

  2. David Pyle says:

    Amanda!

    GP;RIA.

    What’s that mean? Good Post; Read It All.

    Very good advice. Cleanly and succinctly written.

    I trust you’re well!

    Best,
    David Pyle

  3. Amanda says:

    Marcin, very unfortunate indeed. A topic can be covered a million different ways when it’s partnered with a new voice and style. Take those away and eventually everybody really will be reporting the same things in the same exact ways.

    David, thanks! I needed a win! 🙂

  4. Steve Smith says:

    Thanks Amanda. Haven’t come across an article like this but based on the articles and blogs I read, your tips should be standard reading for most folks. I too, have wrestled with the length of my articles. It seems that keeping them short to meet the attention spans of today’s readers forces you to eliminate much of the thought provoking content. But then again, it’s probably a skill set that needs more practice.

    I like point #3 the most. I’ll take good storytelling every time!

    All my best,

    Steve

  5. Amanda says:

    Thanks Steve, it’s definitely a skill to trim out what some would deem “frivolous” commentary. I’m still torn because I too enjoy good storytelling as well!

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