Shorter Isn’t Always Easier

Often when speaking with other writers or clients, about pricing, I mention that easier, generally speaking, is cheaper. This leads to the occasional misunderstanding that shorter is cheaper. That isn’t always the case.

Shorter is USUALLY Easier To Writer

There is a phrase thrown around in my circles that goes, “All other things being equal…” The idea is that if you can somehow, actually, or theoretically, set all of the variables of a given situation to the same, then you can make a generalization based upon adjustments to the single variable you leave open to change.

For example, all other things being equal, it costs more to heat a larger home.

This is true. However, it doesn’t take much effort to come up with ways a larger home might actually be cheaper to heat. A more modern, more efficient furnace ought to do the trick, for example. Add in better insulation, maybe some sort of solar heating, and it wouldn’t be hard at all to find homes that are larger, but cheaper to heat.

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In that same vein, one could say that, all other things being equal, shorter articles are easier to write than longer articles.

However, just like our house heating example, that doesn’t have to be the case.

When Shorter Is Harder To Write

Often what makes shorter harder to write is unrealistic expectations. It is particularly difficult to write “in-depth” articles that are short. That gets more true, the more complicated the topic is. Writing an in-depth look at tax deductions in 500 words (I’m not naming names), for example, would be maddeningly difficult. If this were the first assignment, I’d just turn it down, and perhaps turn down the client altogether if I thought this would be a regular pattern.

This happens most often when clients want a blog post, and have been told that a certain length — 300 words, 500 words, 800 words — is “best.” Then, they go about deciding what they want to publish and come up with topics that do not fit the word count.

The other time writing something shorter is harder is when the best way to convey your point is via anecdotes, or stories. Telling a story well often takes several hundred words on its own, even if it is a simple story. Telling the story, and delivering the setup, facts, and conclusion, is at least 1,000 words.

Expectations and Satisfaction

The solutions, as always is clear communication, and an understanding of what the writer and client need. Often, it’s my job to point out that the topic at hand can’t effectively be written in just 300 words. I’ll sometimes ask clients to find an article that they like on the topic and then copy and paste it into Word to check the word count. The results can be surprising.

In the case of a simple topic, that requires more words to convey, I’m not opposed to charging the same, or lower rate. Again, easiest is cheapest doesn’t mean that shortest is cheapest. This is often sufficient, so long as the length needs are not inflexible. However, when there are specific column inches to be filled, or a precise word count to be published, then there is often an adjustment to the topic that is reasonable. While an in-depth look at tax deductions may be a fool’s errand at 500 words, and in-depth look at the mileage deduction might comfortably fit in a 500 word blog post.

I think maybe I’ll try that.

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