Structure of personal blogs 1: length

Cat scratching at a string cat tower

How long is the perfect blog post? Well, how long is a piece of string?

So we’re looking at how to structure a post on a personal blog, and the first, simplest, most obvious element is length.  As with every aspect of your own non-commercial blog, the decision is yours. There are no rules about how long each post should be—only your personal preference and habits and conventions.

It’s worth thinking about length, but chances are it’s not worth changing what you do already. After all, your faithful readers soon get used to your patterns of publication and adapt accordingly.

Example posts showing wide variation in length

The following are all posts that I have enjoyed, and as you see, they are of no fixed length. Each one is as long as it has to be

  1. Harvest for the grandmothers by Marva Lee Weigelt
  2. Histoires a tiroirs, 17 march 2019
  3. Obsessions—in which spiders break up, by Little Fears
  4. Forgiveness 101 by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

In other words, you can hardly make a bad decision when it comes to length as one discrete aspect of your blogging. On the other hand, the length of your post does not exist in a isolation but interacts with other factors. Who is your audience and what do they prefer? What’s the purpose of this blog post—to instruct, entertain, start a discussion or amuse yourself? And how much information are you trying to convey? (More about that in the next article.) All these things influence your choice of length.

But what is the ideal word count for a blog post?

This is a trick question, because the experts’ recommendations apply only to goal-oriented commercial or professional bloggers. To summarise a few recent articles on the topic:

  • To get social shares, please mobile phone users, go viral and entertain: short posts, 300-500 words
  • To get ranked high in search results, gain influence as an authority, and attract links: long posts, 2500 words or more

Should you write blog posts of a consistent length?

Some bloggers are marvellously consistent and I enjoy that. You know what to expect, and whether you can read it in the time available.
For example the poet Y-Ching Lin writes one short poem  every day like this:

you say a problem
shared is a
problem halved –
let us practice
our karate chops

Others regularly write posts as a stand-alone creative exercise in response to a prompt, and these tend to be of a similar length (pretty short). Examples: Wordless Wednesday, Daily Word Prompt, First 50 Words, Stream of Conscience Saturday, 99 Word Prompt, Daily Haiku, Thursday Photo Prompt and January Recipe Prompt.

However, plenty of bloggers both mix and match their word counts: blog posts are both variable between types of posts and consistent within a series. For example, right now I tend to publish four types of posts — which will change again after a few weeks no doubt:

  • Unyoung poems (typically 100-150 words)
  • Articles about blogging (typically 1000–1500 words: this one’s short)
  • Cat Thinkies (typically 15–50 words)
  • “Other” or “Miscellaneous” (no typical word count).

Since my own blog posts are of such varied length, I could hardly lay down the law about consistent word counts, could I? Still, I find it interesting to consider this aspect of our blogging.

Structural elements can be objectively described

All the elements of structure are concrete (excuse my little joke). I mean they are not airy-fairy abstract ideas: they can be measured objectively. Structure isn’t about the content or the meaning or the tone or the style of writing. Those are hugely important but are usually described subjectively.

  1. SIZE
  5. PARTS

Everyone will agree on the number of words in this post (736). On the other hand, opinions on its style and tone will vary considerably.  Are my style and tone relaxed? sloppy? bossy? formal? informal? academic? pedantic? laboured? light-hearted? You could reasonably use any of those adjectives, because your view is subjectively pegged to your own expectations of such an article. And that is fair enough.

Next week: we’ll look at the quantity of information contained in a single blog post, and we’ll try to do this objectively. That’ll be a challenge…

Do you agree with all the ideas in this article? I wonder. I’d like to know so please do comment?


15 thoughts on “Structure of personal blogs 1: length

  1. Sadje says:

    Personally I like to read shorter posts and try to write posts of about 300 words or less.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      When you post frequently that makes blogging feasible!

      1. Sadje says:

        I know.

  2. I’m a fan of shorter posts (300-600 words) since I read a lot of blogs. If I open a post from an email link and see that it is very long, I will often close it if I don’t have the time to read it (or am using my phone so have a harder time reading the small print). My intention may be to get back to it when I have the time, but that doesn’t always happen. Interestingly, even though this post is a bit longer than 600 words, it didn’t feel long since you use a nice large font, break your post up into easily read chunks, and use subheads and bulleted/numbered lists. All of these elements contribute to e reader-friendly post. I’m really enjoying this series, Rachel!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh I am so pleased you read it! And that you appreciate my efforts to make it readable. Thank you. The tendency seems to be, for writers and readers, little-and-often or long-and-infrequent. Makes sense.

      1. Rosemary Robinson says:

        I have two blogs, my original one is long, researched and infrequent so I started a second short daily one that I can easily compose and post on my phone. It’s renewed my enthusiasm for blogging!

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Ah, I understand. Good thinking! I started my Cat Thinkies (not daily!) in case I couldn’t maintain my weekly poem.

      3. Rachel McAlpine says:

        But where are they, Rosemary? I can’t locate them from your Gravatar.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I have had my writing called terse in the past, but I like to think of it as economical! I prefer shorter posts both to write and to read. I too appreciate the readability of your texts.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You say a lot with a comfortable number of words!

      1. Elizabeth says:

        Thanks. I treasure that comment.

  4. alison41 says:

    As ever, useful practical advice set out in a clear, easily readable format. Appreciated by this blogger.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you so much, Alison.

  5. LittleFears says:

    Cheers for the linky, Rachel.

    I’ve done odd longer posts, but my works so tight and punchy, it feels awfully of place whenever I did a longer story.So I ended up sticking to less than 512 characters for all my stories.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      They are a perfect length. And I love knowing that in advance.

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