Is counting words a distraction?

Are you counting words?

Getting the right words is key to success in marketingCounting words is not a modern phenomenon.  I remember trying to distill a 4 week mapping project into a mere 6,000 words while at university. My daughter had a similar issue when writing her dissertation – how was she going to cut down to her 10,000 word allowance and put in the introduction and the conclusion?

More recently, there was the compression of your message into the confines on a single text – with the rise of text-speak to expand your range.  Then we have Twitter: 140 characters and surprisingly free of the weirder abbreviations.

Even writing posts has a target – the window I am writing in says 109 words so far (in first draft) and the SEO plugin underneath it implies I am aiming for “at least 300 words”.

Writing to a word count can distract from the real purpose of the piece.  You are so fixated on coming in on target that you forget that your reader is not counting. So, is word count important?

Writing for the web

When we run our Small Business Clinic workshops, we emphasise that the real winner is always going to be “good content” not the number of words. You need to write things your audience want to read. Your style needs to be easy to read and applicable to the subject matter and your audience. If you do that, you are likely tick the SEO box as well.

This is all very easy in theory, but can be difficult in practice. My style is often terse: there is standing joke that I write a report and then Catherine fills in alternate words. The result is generally an improvement. There is nothing like getting a second opinion for improving any piece of writing.

Does length matter?

There is a distinction between advisory and absolute length.  Tweets and texts will ignore extra words, or just not publish.  When I did my mapping report, I doubt that the examiner counted: he just knew roughly how many pages he was expecting and worked from there.  With the advent of word processing and word counts, I am not sure whether my daughter was so lucky.

For this post, 300 words give me enough space to explore a subject but is brief enough not to put you off reading.  Getting a dissertation down to a limit will encourage the writer to read their piece and edit it.  That is definitely a plus.

Would you like some help?

We run workshops under our Small Business Clinic brand. One of the workshops we offer looks at how to create good content for your website, blog, posts or tweets. We look at how to determine the style of writing you need and what works well. We also have plenty of examples to show that don’t work and will drive people away. If you think this would help you then please come along.