500 Words

As a professional blogger on MSDN, I have been contemplating the length of a blog post; I came to the conclusion that they should be right around 500 words.


When mentioning this to another blogger, he told me that the length should match the subject. At first glance makes perfect sense. If you have a more complicated subject, you are going to have a longer post. However, I disagree. If you have a more complicated subject, you need to split it into a multi-part series of posts published over a period of days.


My stance is that the length needs to match the channel not the subject. An analogy is a television commercial on a national network channel. No matter what the message or subject, the channel dictates that the commercial only be 30 seconds.

Some commercials are 60 seconds, and some of my blog posts are 1000 words. However, none of the posts are 5000 words, just like there are no five minute commercials. The audience has an expectation of length and you lose them if the post or commercial does not match the channel.


What about the Home Shopping Channel commercials, which are much longer than the national networks? That is a different channel, much as a book is different from a blog post. Viewers have an expectation of the length of the commercial on the Home Shopping Channel.


Here are some of the techniques that I use to keep my blog post under 1000 words (shooting for 500 words):

  • Serialize the post so that it is multi-part. This requires that I write the post in such a way that it is easily divisible. There is an additional benefit to this approach, readers will return to the site to read the follow-up posts, or subscribe to the RSS feed.
  • Promise a follow-up post. If I am tempted to explain a particular point in more detail and diverge from my core idea, I do not. Instead, I promise a follow-up post on the tangent.
  • If I want to help the reader pursue the subject, however don’t want to write about it as a follow-up post, I off link to more information on another site on the Internet. This is helpful in technical blogs, since there are many lengthy free resources on the Internet to link to.

Of course, my idea of the perfect blog post length could be changed by a persuasive argument, if you have one post it in the comments below.


  1. The problem is really one of Either/Or and not appropriately packaging. It seems to me that there should a systematic gradation:
    * Blogs < 500 words
    * Technical Note (2-5 pages)
    * Technical Article (5-15 pages)
    * White Paper (30-50 pages)
    * Publication (80-160 pages)
    * Book (200+ pages)

    You should fit the content into the appropriate container -- not make everything fit into one of two choices.


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