Shorten Those Blogs!

Posted on August 17, 2020

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By David Ettinger

Reader Complaint
The biggest complaint from readers is that they simply don’t have the time to read all the blogs they would like. Tied to this is that most blogs are too long!

Part of that has to do with not knowing how to make a point and move on. The great director Steven Spielberg said of the director of the classic film “Casablanca”: “Michael Curtiz knew exactly when to get into a scene, and exactly when to get out of a scene.”

This is the best advice I ever heard as I apply it to my writing (i.e., make your point and move on).

Examples of Overkill
One of the biggest examples of writer overkill I have encountered are the books of revered preacher and teacher John MacArthur. I find Pastor MacArthur’s sermons to be concise, insightful, and perfectly paced. The same, however, cannot be said for his books, which suffer from an annoying pattern: The first half is great; the second half redundant.

I don’t blame the pastor as this is the reality of the publishing business. Pastor MacArthur usually makes all his points and applications in 75 pages, but this is too short a length for a book. Therefore, the content must be stretched by over-explaining what is easily understood, repeating a point in different words, and giving unneeded examples.

This causes me to say out loud: “Got it! I read this already; why is it being repeated?”

Be Concise
I find this to be the case with many bloggers; they make their points just fine, then feel the need to explain it several times to make sure their readers get it. Rather, bloggers should be brutal on themselves, telling themselves: “Make your point, and move on. Don’t waste the reader’s precious time!”

Think of concise writing as giving instructions to a driver without GPS: “Make a left at Oak; go three blocks and turn right on Elm; stay on that for 3 miles; get on the 429; exit on Williams Avenue.”

Don’t waste time by saying, “Turn left at Oak – I once got mugged there; turn on Elm, the ugliest street in town; and get on the 429, which is pot-hole city!” Spare the unnecessary commentary and stick to the instructions!

How To Do It
As I said, be brutal on yourself. Hate your first drafts! I write my first drafts in a fury – including everything that comes into my head. Then, over the next few drafts, I slice away, telling myself: “Not needed; unnecessary; I already made the point.”

The idea is to keep moving forward and not over-explain what is easily understandable.

The picture above is the first draft of my most recent blog (which came out to 666 words!). Notice how I “hated it” by shredding it and slicing out redundancies and overkill. I eventually trimmed it to a svelte 566 words.

My goal is to get readers engaged at the start and keep them engaged my moving swiftly through the content (hopefully a 3-minute read). When I open a blog, I scroll down to see how long it is. If too long, I won’t read it (that’s a reality for many readers). I do my best to prevent that happening to my blogs.

So, there it is. Comments welcome!