writing with pencil on paper

My daughter came home the other evening with an assignment (exact class withheld to protect the guilty). Classic essay homework, instructions paraphrased here:

Read the assigned passage and provide a written analysis, double-spaced, no fewer than six pages.

“Ugh, this is such a pain,” exclaimed my daughter.

“Ugh, I hated these assignments,” agreed the father.

Does Marketing Word Count Equate to Subject Matter Expertise?

The word count requirement isn’t limited to the classroom. We’re awash in the same for B2B marketing content. Analysis tells us how long our website pages need to be (home page = 250 words; primary = 300 words, etc.) and how many words an SEO-friendly blog should include (1,000 to 2,500 words). White papers should be 2,000 to 3,000 words. We receive article length recommendations from editors. Studies tell us an ideal presentation should last 18 minutes. So, what do we do? We create to the number.

This feels problematic.

If a writer can make a point and conclude a piece in less than the recommended length for their chosen media, shouldn’t s/he do that? If a speaker can make a memorable impression in 10 minutes, isn’t that ideal? Is a contributor more of an expert because s/he is able to wax poetic and double the word count?

Most importantly, is my daughter a weaker student if she can write a compelling analysis in three pages instead of six? Doesn’t a concise and accurate analysis prove better command of the assessed subject matter?

Marketing to Technical Audiences? Find Balance and Get to the Point

I’m an engineer at heart, but I also appreciate a good story. I hate reading long emails. I like a well-written novel. I lose patience with long blogs. I appreciate a good storyteller. I like facts and numbers that make a point concisely. I enjoy content that provides useful context.

That is, I like balance. Unnecessary superfluity (look for the irony, here)? Ugh. A well-written value proposition in fewer than 12 words? Joy.

Word counts teach bad habits and get in the way of good communication. They also make writers lazy. To paraphrase Blaise Pascal, George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain and many others:

“If I had more time, I would have written a shorter blog.”

Ditch the word count, fellow B2B marketing professionals. And teachers, think about doing the same.

NOTE: The above blog is 415 words, which falls far short of the recommended length for search engines and reader engagement. You’re welcome.