How Do You Decide On The Length Of An Article?


I don't.

I create an outline.

And with the help of that outline I can usually write about 500-800 words.

Then I stop.

If the outline has a lot more elements then the article goes on forever

You can indeed write an article that goes deeper and deeper, but for the most part, you definitely want to stop around 1000 words-and without needing to count. Because the outline will do it for you.

So an outline like this will get me about 600 words

"First 50 Words".

Why I get stuck.

How I use outlines to get stuck.

Why outlines help me in article writing.

How professionals use outlining in every field.

How much time do I put into my outlining?

But can outlining go awry?


Next Step.

An outline like this gets me about 500

"First 50 Words": Making a moussaka.

The stages involved-and how tiredness sets in.

How the same applies to article writing-causing a block.

How to side-step that block with separate stages.

Why the separate stages is just what the brain wants-and needs.

But I don't have time to go through these stages.


Next step.

But how can I tell which outline will send me spiralling vs. holding back?

If you look above, you'll notice that both outlines are approximately the same points. So how do you know if one outline will get you 500 words vs. another that goes on for 800? That's easy to answer.

If the concept needs little explanation, and is just making a point then you're going to get in fewer words. Making a moussaka, building an article in stages etc, is not hard to understand. So it needs little explanation. All you're really driving home is an understanding of how to change behaviour.

However, an article that has a lot of new elements in it, will require a lot more words

So if I were to do an outline like the above, but I'm explaining a concept like "consumption" or "yes-yes pricing" then I can't just jump in. I have to bring in a bit of the concept, explain it and go into a fair amount of detail. This adds weight to the article and hence the article has between 200-300 words more.

The key to an article is never to worry about the length

Instead work to getting the message across as effectively as possible.

Most folks worry about length

I don't.

I worry about the ability to keep the reader engaged.

If your reader feels your article is too long, then there's a problem with the article. The reader should just flow from one point to another, one sentence to the other, never noticing whether your article is 500 words or 800 words, or 1200 words for that matter.

And then when the article is done, that reader should want more.

That's the true benchmark of a great article.

Sean de Souza


15+ years ago, fresh out of college with a degree in accounting Sean de Souza joined an advertising agency where he *met* Leo Burnett, a man who had spent his lifetime in the hard trenches of communication and advertising.

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