Do Long Blog Posts Scare Away Readers?

Do Long Blog Posts Scare Away Readers?

Reader Comments (129)

  1. In general, the length of a post does not influence whether I’ll read it or not. However, I’m almost certain not to read a lengthy post if the author has not bothered to break it into coherent paragraphs.

    Likewise, I’ll often stop reading if the grammar or spelling is exceptionally poor. If the writer doesn’t care about their post, why should I?

  2. I am no writer, and I am probably a competent reader only on the best of days, but I find that long posts, especially when read through an RSS aggregator (and thereby lacking some of the more eye-catching aspects) can often be daunting and force me to jump to the next post on my long list of unread posts.
    One of the main turnoffs I experience are long blocks or monotonous text – if you are going to write a long post, if possible, break it into sections and put headings to mark those sections out. It makes skimming and jumping to the parts I want to read so much easier. Otherwise, it is like trying to find your way across a featureless and flat terrain with no landmarks and no way of knowing how much further you have to go – daunting, scary, and a surefire way to drive readers away.

  3. All very good advice. As a photographer, I find my posts which contain photos are briefer than those without. Perhaps each photo is worth 1000 words after all. πŸ™‚

  4. John, I don’t think it’s the LENGTH that matters so much, but the self-flagellating language with which some writers feel compelled to pad their pieces. People don’t seem to understand that you can make just as salient a point with your article with plain, strong language than if you choose to include the entirety of the SAT word list. Don’t be ponderous. Be POTENT.

  5. Yes! This is so true. As a former magazine editor, I’ve learned the hard way how a 50,000 word book can be excerpted into a 2,500 magazine article without losing the meat.

    It’s a mistake to confuse long writing with in-depth writing. Readers appreciate clear, concise communication–especially online.

  6. There are some blogs that I read the entire post every time (like this one!). However, usually when I’m reading a blog post, I will first scan the post for paragraph headers. If those reach out and grab me I will typically read the entire thing regardless of the length. Breaking up long posts into well labeled paragraphs and occasionally adding an image are both great ways to make long posts manageable even to the less avid reader.

  7. I agree that long posts don’t scare me off. I appreciate bloggers who extract their thesis statement and important supporting facts from the body of the paragraphs. This allows me to scan quickly for their angle and to decide whether I want to read it.
    I am test driving this format to see if it gets different results on my blog.

  8. Article length can be subjective since there is a natural length a post needs to be and what it ends up being. I agree that as long as the words move the story along and keeps my interest, then it’s probably the right length. The problem comes about when the words are there for the words sake — not to move the arguments forward.

  9. My blog posts are often at least 2,000 words. They only come about once a week. They’re big, beefy, treat a subject thoroughly, and they get incredible results. Works for me. πŸ™‚

  10. Most people use a thesaurus to find just the right word, but how many do the same with sentences?

    Perhaps they need to start thinking of the process in terms of using a “Sentence Thesaurus.”

    Good write Jon Tsu.

  11. Length is not important to me at all; topic and whether the premise is interesting is. I don’t pay attention to blog lengths at all. If it gets lengthy, and I find I don’t have enough time to read it all for whatever reason, I leave it up in a tab on my Firefox and come back to it later.

  12. If you love your readers, you’ll bend over backwards to make your post as short as possible. I believe making one’s post as short as possible is an expression of respect to one’s readers.

    And if one’s going to make a long post, may be a good idea to cut out the stuff that isn’t really that impressive. Only leave in the gems.

  13. Jon,

    Thank you for bringing up this important issue. Your post was insightful and affirming,

    Like Michael, my posts are just once a week and run longish most of the time (1,500 words or so). I guess I could break them up, but I think there is some merit in covering a topic in depth. I like to give readers something practical that they can walk away and do something with.

    You are so right. It isn’t the length necessarily that should be the measure. It is the level of engagement with your readers.

  14. I prefer long blog posts if the content is appealing. Whenever I choose to read a book I prefer the fat ones. I enjoyed War And Peace so much. Tom Clancy comes into mind. I also prefer to watch long movies. I do so because I enjoy every moment of it – for a long time.

  15. I still find that old sexist copywriting adage the best advice: Copy is like a skirt, it should be short enough to keep attention but long enough to cover the subject.

  16. @Sudheer, I’m the same way, I won’t even buy short stories. If I’m going to get into a piece of fiction, I want a story that will last me awhile. None of this snack-food stuff for me. πŸ™‚

  17. GREAT and TIMELY post!

    I think most of us have a tendency to feel like the longer a post is, the more perceived quality it will have. This is a problem that usually won’t be fixed until bloggers here from their readers who actually tell them, “I love your blog, but the posts seem to run a little long.”

    That’s EXACTLY what happened to me and I’ve been working on it ever since.

  18. Halleluejah!

    Finally a copyblogger article I can agree with wholeheartedly, no reservations at all πŸ™‚

    Long or short doesn’t matter. Sloppy/tight does. Yes, there ARE people out there who simply do not have the attention span to consume anything long, but you have to make the conscious decision that they are not your market, if you choose long.

    I average 1500-2500 words a piece, and throughout August I’ve been taking advantage of the vacation lull to experiment with (as cricket fans would call it) line and length. Line = sloppiness, length = well, length.

    Lately I have been grappling with the tradeoffs involved in sloppy. It is one thing to tighten at the word/sentence level (chopping out weasel words or what you called ‘vampire’ words yesterday). It is quite another to deal with sloppiness in high-level structure, the points involved in the argument etc.

    Combine that with the “blogs as beta writing” heurisitic and the idea that you should pull the trigger rather than aim for perfection, and you get the basic macro-sloppiness/trigger-pull tradeoff.

    I try not to inflict too many macro-sloppy epics on my readers. Maybe 1 in 5 or 6. I figure my long-term readers actually appreciate seeing work-in-progress pieces occasionally. I usually do this with pieces where I am stuck and am hoping readers can provide the high-level missing insights that can finish the idea.

  19. Right! I think author should take a proof read before publishing to find out if the post is boring with serious stuffs. Adding a bit humorous stuff will entertain readers as well as teaching or telling what you’re writing about.

    That’s my personal opinion only.

  20. Completely agree with you here. If the content is interesting and put forward in an easy to follow manner (given you know your readership) length will not be the deciding factor on how many read to the end. Well said!

  21. Good stuff as always. I agree both with your observation about length not being the most important as well as your point about cutting the fat.

    I have suffered in the past with leaving in too much fat. But with a healthy diet, exercise and these wonder pills, my blog posts are lean and mean!

  22. Magazine style is the point. Quality and gain for the reader comes with the content not with the length. Disadvantage for the blogger: you have to invest time and give up the “I need an article every day” if you are not a full-time blogger. But, Twitter is a good alternative to add some fast written meat to it ;-).

    It is a pretty strange game. An old article that is pretty pretty short comparing two programming strategies, I invested maybe 15 minutes and it was done by accident, has high access rates for years. Another one that is pretty long, maybe 3 hours investment, is comparable to it. But, both have a content that was pretty new at the time of writing and/or a bit provocative ;-).

  23. Nice to see someone speaking up for the long article.

    The problem with long articles is that they require a substantial investment of time. If surfers click on to your site and find themselves confronted with a 5,000 word monster, they’ll probably click the back button before even reading line one. It’s not that they’re necessarily lazy or have a short attention spans, it’s simply that little has been done to establish the value of reading the article. If you can establish that value, your readers will appreciate the extra mile you went to explore a topic.

  24. Right you are; if you keep it interesting all the way through then readers stay engaged. Something can “read long” without really be so. As you note, and as per a bible for good writing, Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, “omit needless words… vigorous writing is concise.” On an extreme level, just look at how much can be conveyed in 140 characters, as happens on Twitter.

  25. Love seeing this!
    I believe it is very true – the story carries the read… if it is compelling information, it holds attention and provides motivation to continue – no matter the length. Have often wondered about this, so really appreciate seeing your input ~ movie analogy is PERFECT!
    Thanks so much,

  26. So if you’ve written a post about something that is interesting and has potential to be a frequently revisited article but the writing isn’t quite tight enough – do you go back and work and edit and rework an already live, already viewed and commented on post?

    Just wondering what you do.

  27. I always read what you come up with because a. I am a copy writer and b. I am an addictive blogger.

    T recently changed my commenting system to Intense Debate. I have good response but there are still some issues with those who read my page on their Black Berry. I am confused. Do you think you could help?
    Suggest something I mean

  28. I feel that posts may be long, you just have to cut… well… the crap. There are however a good few people who skim through the many posts in their RSS reader. What I do is try to use the newspaper article recipe: put all the essentials in the title and first paragraph, then elaborate. You’ll get the essential accross to skimmers, and interested people will read on.

  29. @Amber, that’s an interesting question. For me, if the page was getting steady traffic, particularly search engine traffic, I’d tighten it up & make it work better. Or if I wanted to highlight it on my blog’s home page as a “favorite” or otherwise popular post. But I probably wouldn’t do radical surgery. Just minor nip & tuck stuff, cut excess words, possibly add more subheads to make it more scannable, etc.

    There’s another school of thought that would say that you’re better off just focusing on your future content. For me it would depend on whether or not I intended the content to be “cornerstone.” If so, I think it’s worth it.

  30. One should keep in mind that while Lord of the Rings was 10 hrs, it came in three installments.

    Very few people even to this day have the energy or time to sit through all 10 hrs of it in one go.

    Same applies to blogging. If your story takes longer to write, then consider a multi-part or series approach to it.


  31. I tend to prefer shorter post because I have the attention span of a gnat. You’re right though, if it’s an article i’m really interested in and it is well written then it doesn’t matter how long it is. I like to break up my longer post though. Not only does it encourage people to come back, it keeps me from having to think of something else to post about the next day πŸ˜›

  32. Sonia: You’re the third person to tell me that skirt metaphor today. PERFECT. Can’t believe I never heard of it until today.

    Amber: To add to what Sonia said, I think you can also rewrite old posts, give them a better headline, and post them as fresh content. Don’t necessarily have to delete the old ones. It’s not always the best approach, but it’s something to consider.

    AD: The built-in commenting system for WordPress has always worked well enough for me.

    Arif: Yes, Lord of the Rings is a good example of a series, but there is one crucial difference. It’s set up to be three separate stories, not one. I think a series of blog posts should work the same way: each should be a complete post by itself but on a common theme. None of that “Part One, Part Two, Part Three” business, where you break up an idea into incomplete parts. Doing that reduces its power, in my opinion.

  33. Jonathan,

    Long posts do scare away readers. I am a believer in Jacob Nielsen, King of Usability, F Shape theory. Readers skim blog posts, they read no more than 28% of the post in most cases according to Nielsen.

    I agree with you on “short” or tight writing strategies. I also believe in the bullet points, bolding, headers, and creating content that is easy to find for both bots and human readers.

    Mistake #1 in blog post writing: flat text with no eye engaging “texture” that drones on.

  34. At first, it is hard to know what is interesting to your reader and what isn’t. You wouldn’t have written it in the first place if you didn’t think it was interesting, would you..? πŸ˜›

    Part of tight writing is knowing what is relevant. In school students are taught to write long and fluffy because if they write too tight, their paper/report won’t be long enough and they’ll lose points. Too bad we are educated to have terrible writing habits!


  35. Jon,

    Point taken re: “Part One, Part Two, Part Three business”.

    I have been prone to that practice in the past. I have to admit that it is not as effective as I had hoped. Especially if one forgets to complete the remaining part(s)!

    Independent posts as part of a common series/topic is certainly the way to go.

    Thanks for pointing that out.


  36. “In school students are taught to write long and fluffy because if they write too tight, their paper/report won’t be long enough and they’ll lose points.”

    Wow, that’s a sad (and blanket) statement. I spent 20 years in education, most of it in a self-contained classroom, and didn’t teach writing by a word-length standard.

    I do remember as a kid, though, thinking that longer was better, longer would get me the “A.” Just thought that the smart kids should have more stuff to say. Intersting to think about.

  37. It’s not long posts that scare me off, but if the writing does not engage me in the first couple of paragraphs I am unlikely to read it in full if it’s a long one.

    If the content if good, it doesn’t matter how long it is.

    Great post, thanks for the info πŸ™‚


  38. I love the two rules, they are a concise way to make your writing make sense and cents:
    1. Write something that’s interesting
    2. Take out everything that’s not interesting

    I think I am going to print those two out and post them near my computer.


  39. I totally agree with brevity being the rule, and length being the exception.

    As a general rule, after I write a post, I check the length. My personal preference is a post between 500-750 words. Shorter is fine for certain ideas, and I’m sure eventually I’ll write something that needs more space.

    As for being scared away, I raise my hand for that. I follow a lot of RSS feeds and often ‘mark as read’ if the post is too long.

  40. Better to have a conversation about good writing versus bad writing. I’m an old direct response marketing guy and short is good, but not necessarily better than long. Want to get your sales letter thrown away immediately? Do what everybody says you’re supposed to do: keep it to one page, two paragraphs, three, tops. It screams Here comes a sales letter!! Want to get results from your sales letter (or any type of writing)? Tell the whole story. Well. If you can do it in 400 words, great. If it takes 1,400, take the 1,400. The only thing that stops people from reading is bad writing.

  41. Dean: Check out some of the studies that copywriters have done on this. They’ve actually looked into it a lot more than Nielsen has. It’s not specifically on blog posts, but their studies on the length of sales letters have proved that it’s irrelevant. People will read over 100 pages in a single sitting, as long as it’s interesting.

    Blake: I agree that many schools teach bad writing habits. In fact, I’m planning to write a post about it.

  42. Interesting points!
    I spend an hour reading blogs on my iPhone, while commuting to work. So I am very selective about what I read. But the length of the post is never a criteria. It’s the title, images, sub-headings and most importantly whether there’s any action-able ideas.
    Oops, I almost missed my station…

  43. I’m pretty guilty of long posts but I do check the spelling and do the paragraph thing. It’s hard to know if people are reading when they don’t comment. After posting a poll I’ve discovered that I seem to be an oddball since I tend to comment on a post I read while others rarely do this.

  44. Great article! I agree that its fine to be as long winded as required as long as the content is great.

    However, the longer the article, the more riveting it has to be.

  45. I love the idea that the story matters more than the length of the story. Especially love the point about editing mercilessly to make the story as tight as possible.

    I totally subscribe to this theory. πŸ™‚

  46. This is a valuable article with a valuable comment stream. Thank you. Like others here, I love a great long novel – Tolstoy, Vikram Seth – and I also appreciate a pithy short blog post with a point, or posing a great question without trying to resolve it. I like the point about writing tightly.

    Quoting Hamilton above “Tell the whole story” – some stories take a while to tell, some can be told with great brevity and concision. Additionally, there are many different people on this planet – some cultures like some flourish in their story telling, some find that a disincentive to reading. Surely your target audience is a relevant consideration and one size might not fit all?

  47. Thanks for this info. I have felt the same to be true but to hear it from a real pro helps to clarify. Again, if the material is interesting to the reader, doesn’t ramble, is “tight” – then I agree that people will continue to read.

  48. I agree fully that it is about the QUALITY of the writing that is done.

    That said, I refuse to cow to the A.D.D. mentality of the younger generations that see something longer than two paragraphs and claim they it was “too long to read”. I am entirely not concerned with losing readers that find four ‘pages’ “too long to read”- these are the type of internet dweller I’m happy to allow to roam blogs with pretty pictures instead. 8P

    I don’t want to contribute to the damage that’s already being done to the English language due to online tendencies. I just re-posted a blog on my new site about this recently:

    Getting back to quality, that is the trick. I find so many other bloggers put no effort into their posts, and they are littered with (basic) grammar and spelling errors. Perhaps not the end of the world to some, but at least some effort should be put in.

    I am constantly going back to my posts, fixing errors, tightening phrases, and cleaning up bad writing. Of course, since I just relaunched my blog, I’ve had nowhere near enough time to do enough editing without getting behind on my posts- looking forward to catching up so I can focus on more “clean” first efforts.

  49. @ Jon: I’m not sure it’s really accurate to compare a blog post to a sales letters. Of course you’re the expert and I read your stuff to learn.

    That said… When people are readying to trade money for a product or service, they’ll often read an entire pitch (regardless of length), or as much as they feel necessary to feel comfortable enough to take the plunge.

    A blog post is for entertainment, though. People are not reading it to decide whether they’re going to purchase something or not. For this reason, I do believe a longer post can scare people away regardless of how well written it is.

    Personally, I like to do a mixture, while focusing on shorter posts. They do say variety is the spice of life.

  50. Grab and hold attention.

    I think it’s the hardest thing to do. The average blog reader looses focus quickly and when that happens, they’re gone …

    Grab and hold by making things really interesting / fun / useful …

    Same old story …

  51. Yeah, I agree with you on that. I once believed that all blog posts should be short and sweet to be good, until I discovered Dosh Dosh blog. If you have read any one of his blog posts, you know how lengthy his post could be (compared to other blogs).

    But, despite that, I enjoy reading them. It feels in-depth and complete. So, since then, I realized that it’s not about the length of your post, it’s bout your delivery and the quality of your posts.

  52. I’m definitely a fan of longer posts and as such I do find it sort of easy to pad my articles with irrelevance, but since reading On Writing Well I am more mindful about writing tightly.

  53. Some time long post make the reader tired in reading those topics coz too much explanation . The reader just want the read and get the meaning of those topic only . So short post is better than long . It is my opinion .

  54. At the risk of being crude, I’m sure there are a few guys out there glad to know, finally, definitively, that size doesn’t matter!

  55. In general, Yes! Long blog posts do scare me off, unless I have a prior liking for the blogger. If I know he’s got something to say then I’ll listen, but if it’s the first time i’m reading an article of a blogger I’ll run a mile if the post is too long.

    As kch said, poor grammer and spelling is also another pet pieve. Failing to proof read your own work is a mortal sin and will hurt a blog!

  56. You have to take away everything extraneous, leaving only the core ideas. Cliched expressions and fluff language can eat up a lot of the word count.

    Length doesn’t matter as long as there is a purpose for it. I’ve written photography and personal development articles up to 4000 words which have been just as popular as my 1000 word posts, because they go into much greater detail and they cover more scenarios than fewer words could.

    For me, popular is anything that receives 2 or more comments.

  57. This is an enlightenment, I really thought that short posts is more attractive to the readers rather than the long ones.

  58. My wife, an english teacher and one of my editor/reviewers, uses 4 big, red letters to keep her student’s writing on task: GTTP – Get To The Point.

    Once your there, stay as long as necessary, no longer.

    Great post.

  59. Kind of like determining the length of ad copy. There is no rule except that if it is crap, no one will read it no matter how short it is….conversely, if it is personal and interesting, it will be read no matter how long it is.

    If you found a 10 page letter titled Everything you ever want to know about (your name here), tell me you wouldn’t read every word.

  60. Long or short, that fact that it doesn’t matter is absolutely true! Some of my favorite blog posts by other bloggers are long and I’m suprised that I read such a long post. But it’s because they did great job of stringing their words and ideas together. But I’m also a fan of the short punchy posts. I write both long and short posts because I find that mixing it up is good for me and my readers.

  61. I hear you, Jon. I actually find it hard to keep myself “short” (quotes used ironically) enough when writing for Copyblogger. I go on and on and on. Sometimes I wonder if people will slave through the marathon posts I tend to write on my own blog. They often do. Then I send them a muffin basket in thanks.

  62. Umm, I agree with the Chris Catania . It depend on the story . if the story interested to readers , even it post is long the reader still keep reading till it finish . Each paragraph of the story should be interact each other . Finally , the reader will not skip it .

  63. I hate when I come to a site and all they have is a huge amount of words going down. I don’t care if they have an amazing amount of information in it. If it is paragraph after paragraph in a huge page going down to my toes, then I am leaving. Period.

  64. I love your article and I agree that it’s more about the content in a blog than the length of it that really keeps people reading. Sometimes, i skim a longer article and if it is interesting, I’ll keep reading, but if not, I’ll skip. I’m a visual person, so more pictures or line breaks definitely help keep up the flow of any article.

  65. @Narith thanks for agreeing–it’s very kind of you!

    It’s always a challenge to balance what I want to say with what the readers want to read. Delivering my ideas in short chunks seems to work the best if I’m going to tell a longer story.

  66. Here’s a big difference betwixt short movies and short posts: I feel cheated by movies under 100 minutes. They cost so darn much to go see, I want to get more value for my dollar. Posts–short or long, it’s all about content.

  67. Long post doesn’t matter for me as long it have a good contents, relevant and helpful. You can see so many long post out there got so many comments which mean people did read long post.

  68. Interesting post. I’ve been told I’m occasionally too wordy, so I’ll be implementing the part 1 & 2 processes when I next compose a blog piece.

  69. Lengthy blog posts can send your visitors/readers to the closest exit, namely the red X in the upper right corner of their computer screen.

    If what you want to say is important and extremely well written (enough to capture the attention of your audience) then go for it.

    Some tricks I incorporate into lengthy posts are:

    1. adding bold print to areas of importance
    2. throwing in pictures to break the monotony of written text
    3. adding a “read rest of article” – this allows the reader the choice as to whether or not they want to continue reading the post or move on the something else.

  70. Kali…post 81
    I agree with what Kali wrote,,,was going to say something similar…
    But here’s another thought!..!
    No matter how long a film/article is or how good it is…if indeed it is lengthy…there has to be a point where you need an intermission…like a good book…you have to put it down….to savor it..and come back to.
    It does not mean loss of interest.
    Internet copywriters are trying too hard to keep the reader on the page afraid of loosing the reader when in fact the content should be good enough to bring them back.

  71. I agree with Malcolm.t, but no one ever comes back to a post once they have seen the headline, unless they are following comments! If a post is too long and from a source that is important to me, I just email it to myself so I can read it when I have time. That way I don’t forget to come back to it.

  72. This answers a question I have pondered over for a while and you have answered it brilliantly. I often find myself reading shorter blogs because I assume the writing is concise and the assumption of longer posts is that they waffle on. But you are right; people need to write well to make their blog a success, whether they are looking at writing three paragraphs or three pages.

  73. As long as the subject mattrer is interesting, I will read long posts. It’s when the writer starts to go off at a tangent and introduces irrelevant material that I hit the delete button πŸ™‚

  74. long posts scare me when each paragraph is a mile long… and i realize that’s how i write sometimes. i’m trying to change that habit. perhaps because i don’t write about topics that interest others (i blog about my life happenings), i feel the need to not be so staggered but i am now slowly realizing that breaking up my thoughts into small paragraphs is actually a lot better, and make my writing more entertaining.

  75. Really good post. I find that often it’s difficult to convey the message adequately if the post is too short. What I’ve found to be helpful are 3 things.

    1. The ‘Read More’ feature is a life saver. If you’re opening paragraph really “grabs” the reader, it’s a done deal.

    2. Putting the first sentence of each paragraph after the first two in bold print. This give the reader the option as to whether or not they want to take the time to read that particular portion of the article. Make sure the first sentence of each paragraph clearly outlines what the paragraph is about.

    3. Using pics/images after every two paragraphs breaks the monotony and makes the article or post appear to be less lengthy.

    Even after employing all these tactics it still boils down to your reader. Long or short…if it’s interesting people will read it.

  76. I think the way in which a blog is formatted plays a big part. Longer blog posts are much easier to read when they contain images, and visually appealing text, including headers and font indentations etc. Of course the writer and topic need to be engaging – which on some blogs is seriously absent!

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