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Writing about writing about writing

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Why read this? : We share some of the key lessons we’ve learned about writing online. Learn how long blog articles should be. Why the rule of three matters in writing. And where to start with advertising copy. Read this to see what we’ve learned writing about writing.

65,000 words and counting

Most published books have a word count of 80,000-100,000 words.

We’re getting close to that on our website. Since its October launch, we’ve written 50+ content pages and 15 blog posts. This is blog #16.

Each page / article averages around 1,000 words so far. That puts us at about 65,000 words.

Not quite a book’s worth of writing about marketing, creative and e-commerce. But not far off. 

Fountain pen writing on lined page

With all this writing skills practice, we thought it was a good time to write more about the act of writing itself. As it’s clearly something we value doing. 

What's the ideal length of a blog article?

Let’s start by looking at how much writing you need for a blog article. 

We recently came across a Medium study about the optimum length of a blog article. It’s a few years old now, but the data suggests 7 minutes as the optimum blog length reading time. It’s unlikely that’s changed much since the article was written. Most people read at around 250 words per minute, so our initial 1,000 words per post is probably a little low. Around 1,500 to 2,000 words are more likely to give you that 7-minute reading time. 

But if you read the article, it makes clear there are big differences in reader engagement. It’s not just based on the length of the article. It’s also the quality of your writing.

We work to a weekly deadline for our blog content. Everyone knows that working to a deadline sometimes compromises the editing and quality of what you deliver when you write.

But without deadlines, most people who write for a living would never produce anything. 

It’s an ongoing writing challenge to get a new article out each week, while making sure it’s still relevant and interesting.

Article length matters for a couple of reasons, but maybe not those too related to writing on its own.

An article of decent length which Google tracks people spending time reading is great for your SEO. But it’s also good for your readers. And so, it’s also good for your business. 

Young woman on train station platform looking at her mobile phone

The rule of three in writing

In our market research in the marketing plan guide, we refer to the “Rule of Three” as a great way to structure your story when sharing results.

But the rule of three works in multiple situations. Particularly when you’re writing.

It works because your brain finds it easy to triangulate data into 3 chunks to remember it. (See our design psychology article for more on this). 

It’s how you remember your phone number, for example. Say your phone number out loud. We bet you say it in 3 chunks.

Wooden model of Three Wise Monkeys - Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil

You remember those 10 or 11 digits in groups of 3, right?

So when we were putting this blog together, we also looked at going the other way from writing a long article. What if you can only use a few words? What if you only have 3 words?

3 inspiring words

Inspiring 3 words quotes was an interesting Google Search for us. Here’s what came up :-

  • “I’ll be there” (technically 4 words).
  • “I love you”. 
  • “Maybe you’re right” (again with the 4 words).
  • “I trust you”.
  • “Go for it”.
  • “Got your back”. 
  • “How are you?”.
  • “I want you”.

Normally, we wouldn’t write out a list of search results. But these were just too interesting.

You might wonder how these personal, relationship-driven words can be of use to a business.

Grafitti of a red heart, with a stick person hanging from on it on a white wall

Well, here’s the thing. Look at the underlying themes which run through these very simple words.

Trust, love, support, empathy, desire.

These are all very human feelings. Interesting. Maybe you can use those to attract the humans who might read your writing?

You might find yourself writing the most boring bit of product page information to fill out your product information management system. But someone, somewhere, someday will read that. So why not include the benefit to them? Make it more interesting. More emotional

What if you add warmth and humour to your content? And if it’s not going to work in your writing, can you encourage it in your customers?

For example, we’ve seen so many people sharing hilarious Amazon reviews of Veet on social media, that we have to think there’s a savvy marketing agency encouraging those reviews.

It’s not the sexiest of products. But with a bit of good writing, you can bring any product to life. 

Finding the right balance

The idea to write about writing for this article came about because we’re in the middle of updating our whole writing skills section.

It needs more work. There are all sorts of different types of writing skills you should understand and know how to use when you work in marketing, creative and e-commerce. 

The really short punchy writing to write advertising or sales copy, for example. If your target audience has a short attention span, you have to choose your words very carefully.

Person wring at a table - close up of their arm with a coffee mug in front of them

An unusual headline which captures attention, for example.

We chose the headline for this article to be a bit ‘meta’ and self-referential. Because we know people interested in reading about writing like that sort of stuff. And a few interesting facts also help draw those people in. Plus of course, you have to close with a strong call to action which tells the reader what to do next. 

The fact we’ve almost written a book’s worth of content already is something readers won’t know. But it helps you judge whether we can help you with your writing needs. 

Article and blog writing can be a great way to engage specific target audiences with your expertise and your brand identity. We aim to do that with articles writing about marketing, for example, or habits you can learn to improve your writing expertise

Writing long content vs writing advertising content

If you compare writing blog articles or social media posts to traditional advertising, the reader / viewer experience is very different,

Compare watching a 30-second TV ad to a 7-minute read of your article.

That’s 14 times longer a reader spends engaging with your brand. But only if the content’s good enough to make it worth their time.

And writing an article is a lot cheaper and faster than making a TV ad. 

Outdoor billboard with writing that says this will drive $1m in sales - probably

Even outdoor billboards which are much cheaper to produce might only be seen for a few seconds. That makes readers spend 140 times as long with your article than an outdoor advert.

We won’t digress too much into brand strategy here, but we’ve worked with many marketers over the years who just didn’t get this. They saw little to no value in writing or storytelling

Content writing isn’t sexy. You can’t stand in front of the business and show them a 1,000-word article on breastfeeding. Or organising a party. Or making biscuits.

Just to pick 3 content topics we’ve written about in the past.

Evergreen written content

But articles on topics like these can sit on your website and be ‘evergreen’. They don’t disappear. They can generate interest and engagement with customers over a long time. If you find the right keywords for terms customers search on, people could be reading this content for years to come. 

Unlike your million-dollar TV ad. After it’s been on air for its 8 weeks or so, at best, it might live on in the depths of your YouTube account.

But let’s be honest, most TV ads don’t stick in the memory. How many TV or outdoor ads do you recall seeing this week? Or even so far today? 

Don’t get us wrong, big-budget ad campaigns have their place. Even if that means awful meetings with the media sales team. And debates about the sales impact of your advertising

But if it’s your business, don’t forget good quality written content for your website adds value too. The financial return just comes in over a much longer time.

Conclusion - writing about writing about writing

As the sun sets on 2019, we’re closing up shop for a few days to see in the New Year and relax a bit. We hope you’re going to be chilling out too. 

But we’ll be back early in 2020 with more writing about writing, as we continue to build our skills and share what we learn to help you build your skills. 

Best wishes for the New Year. 

Check out our writing skills guides to learn more. Or, get in touch for advice on how to improve the writing in your business. 

Two wine glasses on the railing of a balcony overloloking the sun setting on a sea view

Photo credits

Fountain Pen : Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Woman at Station with Phone : Photo by Daria Nepriakhina on Unsplash

Heart graffiti : Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Person writing near mug : Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

Billboard (adapted) : Photo by Kate Trysh on Unsplash

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