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April 30, 2012


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I seem to have the same problem. Which is the same problem I had back in college, when my professors would ask us to limit our papers to some degree. (Can ANY decent writer feel okay about themselves if they are submitting a 1 page report/opinion on anything?)

What's ironic is that while I can't seem to fit all of my thoughts into 500 words, I also can't seem to get myself to click "page 2" on anyone else's post. Maybe that's the ADD/self-possessed quality I've managed to perfect.

Thanks for the (short) post, David.

Tamara Groom

Being concise is difficult. I have not yet mastered it myself, but I now see the value in it. I had a wonderful journalism teacher who always says,"Make every word tell." He would highlight the difficulty of this by quoting Pascal who in a letter to a friend apologized for the length of the letter saying, "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter."
The other mantra was, "Be fast, be accurate, be interesting." That's a tall order.

John Windsor

Had a boss once who gauged the significance of a report on the sound it made when he dropped it on a table. The louder the sound (i.e. the bigger the document), the better the report. He was an idiot . . .


While I agree people are busy and attention spans are down to nanoseconds in some cases, I still think there is a place for take the amount of words you need to say something. I read plenty of bloggers that go over 500, may double that. And I'm not their only fan. I think it depends on who your audience is and how much they like what you have to say/how useful and relevant it is. I also think a mix is great too. People may not always read long posts, so posting a variety of content, in a variety of formats is a good strategy I think.


I enjoy short, to the point, thought provoking posts. Seth Godin is the master of that. But, a long post that doesn't ramble, is thought provoking and stays on track is good.

It gets back to content.

Lewis LaLanne

I believe the majority of people are lazy and always looking for the magic pill short cut. I know I have these tendencies. We blame our desire for short cuts and magic pills on there being so much information coming at us but the people who succeed on a massive scale have even MORE coming at them, yet, they still make it happen.

So for me it's not so much a matter of managing information (only reading short-bite-sized stuff) as it is an issue of managing myself and my outcomes.

Now for someone who's trying to impart wisdom on another I've come to realize that your content should be as long as it needs to be in order to appeal to the four learning styles . . . Why, What, How, What Now

Not everyone learns the same way. But often, we like to impose our way of learning on anyone listening to us. When we do this, we disconnect from 75% of our audience.

The way to fix this is to always make sure you're teaching complete concepts that address WHY this is important, WHAT the information is (concepts and definitions), HOW to do it (step-by-step instruction) and WHAT NOW (what action can I take right now to take this from theory to reality).

It seems to me that doing this with speed and being quick but not hurrying it is the best option. And you get all kinds of extra credit if you weave entertainment into the process.


Brevity is the soul of wit. ~ Shakespeare's Hamlet

I prescribe to the "eliminate every 5th word" rule.

David Meerman Scott

Ha. I love all these comments. Rather than respond to every one, I'll be brief and say thank you.


Using the minimum number of words required doesn't have to mean short posts.

I love short posts. I love long posts, too.

I hate redundant words & sentences - they slow me down.


A man of few words usually makes a lot of sense.

Alison Koop

Way to Strunk your White!

Stan Dubin

Long posts are good when nicely mingled with images, bullet points, sub-headings...just good copy. Oh, the content does need to be interesting, but the above help to bring one along.

Short posts are good when a point is nicely made and is helpful or entertaining.

Medium posts are...

Jason Rudland

less is more

Jose Jimenez

Am I eager to read a long blog post? I guess it depends on things like the source, title, topic and probably a few other things. I don't mind as long as its is informative and as long as not every blog post is long. Sometimes bite sized and bullet points are good as they easy to digest.


Agree. It's even worse in books, especially in marketing you often read a book and think - this is a stretched blog post, there is just one thought and it goes over and over and over. For example, I love Seth Godin's The Dip but really, two pages and a graph would have sufficed.

Another area where more is not better are slides. My rule: never change the font size on a slide from a (very large) pre-set size. If you have to, it's too much text.

Steve Johnson

Je N'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parceque je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.
(I have only made this letter rather long because I have not had time to make it shorter.) -- Pascal.

Tony Faustino

"When you see a long blog post, are you eager to read it? Maybe not."

I think you're asking the wrong question. I think it should be "when you see a blog post from X, are you eager to read it."

I've chosen X because she/he has something valuable to say. That's all that matters to me.

John White

I'll go Tony Faustino one better: Maybe the question is, "What do you remember about David M. Scott?"

-Market your content the way the Grateful Dead did.
-Yesterday's journalist can be tomorrow's corporate storyteller.
-"Innovative" is the most overused word in marketing-speak.
-Nobody cares about your products or how cool they'll be if they use them. They care about their business problems and whether they can trust you to help solve them (my paraphrase).

Short, long or medium, do your posts leave behind the message you intend?

meredith blevins

You dilute your message when it's too long.
There was a friendly contest amont writers of the day to come up with something that jogged a story in the fewest words. Hemingway's was:
For sale, baby shoes: never worn.
Dive into Hemingway when you get too wordy. (And avoid adverbs.)

Sean Carpenter

It's easy to say we all want shorter posts but that's not always the case. Somedays we only have a few moments to read a post on our phones so a short "Godin-esque" post works well. Other days we see it will require some scrolling and concentration and we save it for later to ready on a larger screen or when we have more time to digest.

Grisham and Lee Child do well with long books and short chapters while J.K. Rowling deserves credit for getting kids to enjoy reading long books again.

As is usually the case, content rules.

Richard Hanley Jr.

If it directly apples to my most-pressing topic, yes.

Jared Proctor

Lisa Pluth wrote a post for socialfresh.com about why good writing is important for success on Pinterest. One of her surprising takeaways: "lengthy and complex posts often do well on the site." Attributed to site's layout--strangeness of seeing a lot of text (after a ton of pics) cause viewers to pause. http://socialfresh.com/writing-on-pinterest/

For me, brief and compelling works best.

Vince Giorgi

I'm feeling you on brevity, David. As someone whose posts often weigh in at 800 words or more, I recently pushed myself to try the other extreme: a blog post haiku. http://wp.me/prZbT-po

Eight words. 5-7-5 syllables. With some photos to round out the ultra-spare storytelling.

For the record, I've never had a problem reading any of your posts to the end. But like you, I'm nudging myself to say more in fewer words. Good luck.


I recall my first day at Medill. A journalism prof admonished that the history of World War II could be written in three sentences. Wisdom for anyone who writes long.

erich berger

Being brief may seem like dumbing it down, and in a way, it is. If you are pitching a movie concept to a studio head, for instance. The trick is, you can always add more, you can never take away. As with what we have just discovered about Moore's Law, our collective attention span has a fixed bandwith, and rather than doubling every two years, what we are able to pay attention to seems to be actually shrinking.


I don't see brevity as compromise or dumbing down. Like the structure of a haiku, it's a constraint that can unleash creativity. Some things need to be expressed as manifestos or epic poems, but the discipline of a word limit can improve many posts (and ensure that they're actually read by the intended audience)

Julie Phelps

I just joined and it is nice to meet you all!
I saw this particular post right away. I love that Pascal quote by Tamara. All this makes me think "how would Hemingway have done it"? The bit about baby shoes for sale is a great example of just how he would and did.
I have difficulty keeping it concise yet complete.
I am a work in progress.
Strangely - or not - Twitter has been helping me to use fewer words to say more. Of course, the abbreviated links are helpful in that regard.

David Meerman Scott

Joeidon - I'd like to see the history of WWII in a few sentences.

Erich - Good point - those movie pitch things are cool. I like hearing them.

Rsomers - you're right that brevity is a discipline. One that I keep struggling with.

Julie - I know what you mean about Twitter helping - but in my case I am good at making a tweet fall into the constraint but less so on making blog posts short.

abhay pattnaik

Sharply focused messages differentiates you from the chatter box

Mehr S

I agree that it's definitely a challenge to keep things short and concise at times. What I try to do sometimes is write down my thoughts in outline form, maybe four or five lines and then try to sum up the general idea in one or two lines. This helps to keep my posts shorter.

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