An editor-friend recently threw down a challenge. “Unless you have something really special, a blog post should be about 300 words,” she said firmly. Ouch. As queen of the 650-word blog post, I felt criticized. But then, I got inspired. Let’s hear it for writing tight!
Being super-concise way is super-hard. In fact, it’s easier to blather on at length than to make a brief, laser-sharp statement. This ability to write tight is a basic journalistic craft. Even if you’re reading a 7,000-word article, rest assured that if the piece is any good, the journalist who wrote it struggled to make every word count.
Whether I’m blogging, chasing stories for my job, re-arranging furniture in my house, pulling together an outfit, painting a picture or sending an email, it’s all about writing tight — the art of distilling the material at hand down to its most powerful essence. When I used to teach this stuff to my college journalism students, here’s what I would explain about how to write tight:
Know the subject matter really well. Solid reporting is key. When I’m well-informed, I can express nuances with confidence and have a better handle on ways to cut down the material. But when I’m not sure, I babble.
Don’t get hung up on presenting perfection. There’s always room to polish the material later. Just get the words down, start the painting, try on that shirt with those jeans. Just get started!
Try things out in the real world. I used to force my students to read their stories out loud. I’m reading this post out loud as I write it. Hear the work to instantly detect bad grammar and boring passages.
Practice, practice, practice. Going at this over and over is the only way to gain experience. Watch yourself grow!
There….that is my whole post for today. It’s 298 words. To be honest? I still prefer a slightly longer post — about 450 words has been feeling right to me lately. But ever since my friend reminded me of the benefits of brevity, I’ve been hacking away hundreds of words out of every post. The sense of purging is even starting to feel fun. And now, we’re up to 366 words. :)