I’ve written a few blog posts without much notice and started searching online for some general guidelines to improve my writing. I stumbled across this website, and became immediately impressed with the focus of the site and began understanding how reaching the proper number of words is so important to the effectiveness and impact an article offers.
In my previous research, I had gathered different information about the style, language, and type of writing where there are volumes of information. However, when it came to the proper usage of word counts I was rather taken aback at how this important part of writing had not been given a great deal of treatment.
Many of the numbers that get thrown around for how long articles should be have been warped by the old freelance payment system used by newspapers and magazines when they publish articles. Since they pay by the word, most writers will naturally try to cram in as many as possible in order to get the most out of their work while not having the article rejected.
However, this practice often leads to meandering or repeating points that reduces the effectiveness of the article itself. Instead, the focus should be on how many words will convey the information accurately without adding unnecessary details or leaving the reader confused. Striking the right balance should be the objective when focusing on the proper number of words in each type of article.
Why is a Good Word Count Important?
I’ve found that in my experience at writing the pressure of trying to fulfill a word count was often based on arbitrary numbers rather that what really worked for the writing I was trying to achieve. The importance of the proper number of words as the website reveals is focused on the information and the flow of the writing itself rather than just pulling a number out of a hat.
However, it is true that different types of articles will require a different word count. There are several reasons for this, but basically this is due to the fact that readers will have an unconscious expectation about the length of articles which must be reached.
For example, a short story that is under 500 words can make it appear that important details are left out while a job application that is more than 1,000 words can be overlong and confusing. So, hitting the right number of words will need some guidelines depending on the subject matter and in what format the article is posted.
Word Counts for Each Type of Article
What follows are good lengths in terms of the number of words used for each type of basic article. However, they should not be held as absolutes since your writing might benefit more if the article needs to be a little longer or shorter depending on the information that is presented.
Magazine or Newspaper Article: For feature articles, 2,500 to 3,000 words is generally a good target as it provides enough detail and background to flesh out the writing while not being repetitive or including unnecessary details. However, there are good feature articles that go up to 5,000 words if there is a need for more background information.
Blog Post: Here, it will depend on the subject matter, but 500 to 1500 words are generally good for a typical blog post. The purpose of the post is not only to inform, but spark a reaction as well. So, the shorter and tighter a post can be, the more it will entice a reader to respond. Longer posts are reserved for bigger or more obscure subjects where more explanation is needed.
Job Application: When it comes to a job application, about 600 words works well as it provides enough information and detail without going so far as to bore the reader. By keeping to roughly this amount and organizing the information clearly so that the reader does not get lost, it can really help the effectiveness of the writing.
CV: A CV, as well as a cover letter, needs to be very short and to the point. 250 to 400 words is about right for this form of writing as the reader will be one who has little time to reach much more than that. In order to make the right impression, you need to be short and sweet and leave the details to your resume.
Wedding Speech: A wedding speech is arguably one of the trickiest to get right as you must be entertaining, yet cover everything that you want to say. Here, the determining factor will be the reading speed of the person delivering the speech, but you should shoot for around 1,500 to 2,000 words as that can be delivered in just a few minutes, yet it should hit all the necessary details.
Do Short or Long Word Counts Sell the Best?
What really sells the best are good, interesting articles that pull the reader in and do not let them leave until the end. However, the word count is still important as virtually every publication has pre-set limits and will simply not bend them by more than a few words one way or the other. So, the first step is to look at the limits set by the publication that you intend to write the article for and then if the natural length of the article fits within those limits.
Generally speaking, the ideal is to cover all the major points in as little number of words as possible without being confusing. So, the short word count that offers a good hook to pull the reader in and complete thoughts so that it is easy to read and understand is where the focus should be. However, a long word count should not be summarily dismissed depending on the subject matter.
In the end, setting a proper word count for the articles you write will provide a guideline to how your story should be constructed for maximum effectiveness while using the minimum number of words necessary to convey the information.