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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

1,001 words on word counts


Mine is the only blog in existence which gives explicit consumer-friendly warnings about whether you should begin to read it or not.

Have you noticed it? It’s the little parenthetical number right at the very top of each new post.

Today’s says “(1,001 words).”

Confused about what it means?

Don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. I’ve had enough people question it I thought a little refresher was in order because I have no intention of removing the feature.

I believe its value is futuristic.

It’s the blog’s word count -- the total number of words it took to compose that post. You can gauge whether or not that blog is worth reading depending on how much time you have to kill. Click it on any day and the link will zip you right over to an introductory explanation from its September 2012 debut.

If you’re at work and see a post says “(653 words)” you might think, “Ah, perfect, a nice short possibly humorous distraction that will allow my hormones to re-charge until they once again cry out for their once-every-10-minute porn fix.”

But you might want to save a post that tops, say, 1,200 words, for a long phone call when you have to pretend you’re paying attention but are crafty enough to fake it.

See, I’m a newspaper guy. I think in some ways that’s what I’ll always be.

And I mean that in the romantic sense and not that I’ll always be broke, badly dressed and mortally depressed about the prospects for my immediate future.

Sure, I’m all that, too, but like any newspaper guy or gal, I love everything about newspapers -- the way they feel, smell, look and the way you can roll one up to squash an annoying house fly without blood-splattered parts of the newspaper’s motherboard splashing into your morning coffee.

So much of my impoverished newspaper history involves equal measures headlines, deadlines and breadlines.

But I absolutely loved writing newspaper stories.

There’s a genuine and unmatched journalistic thrill to writing a great front page deadline story at 7 a.m. and then watching it roll off the presses four hours later knowing everyone in the city would be talking about it by lunch.

But there was one thing about writing newspaper stories newspaper people grow to resent.

That’s the word count. A typical newspaper column measured 750 words.

You could score an interview with the resurrected Christ and if a harried editor said he or she only had 750 words of space, then by God, that story would be 750 words long.

And that “by God” reference isn’t hyperbolic. Crusty old editors on deadline have an almighty omnipotence that would cause many a real deity to defer. 

It was all very tyrannical.

That’s the great thing about writing for the web. Unshackled from spacial concerns, you can write as long as you damn well please.

Sometimes, just for the playful spite of it, I’ll even write the exact same sentence twice.

Sometimes, just for the playful spite of it, I’ll even write the exact same sentence twice.

But this liberty is abused by many otherwise worthy writers. They go on and on and on.

And on and on and on.

And on and on and on.

The hacks.

Me, I truly fret over each and every word. I know how precious your every second is and what a frivolous waste of it reading this blog is to productive living. 

It’s not like I’m dispensing insightful stock tips or hot fantasy football advice.

You get nothing material out of reading this.

If that makes you feel bad, cheer up.

Imagine how I feel.

But I have a lot of fun here. I hope you do, too.

And I hope you’ll tell friends. My tech guys are right now putting together a snazzy new home page that will feature podcasts, book deals and more than 100 story links in easy-to-access categories. I believe it will be a cinch to navigate and beneficial to one and all.

I’m calling the site www.healthcare.gov.

But the word count up top is I believe essential to informing you of whether or not I’m wasting your time.

You’re entitled to at least that. If you see a long line at a fancy restaurant, you have to consider whether the meal is worth the wait.

Why should a blog be any different?

What’s caught me by surprise is that uniformly, the heftier stories  -- the ones that exceed 1,000 words -- are often more popular than the ones that measure a jiffy 600 words or so.

 I’d thought it would have been the opposite. 

That’s emboldened me to stretch out more. If I’m passing the 700 words mark and it feels like it’s flowing I’ll just let it ride, comfortable that you’re going to stick with me.

Of course, the knowledge tempts me to put misleading word counts up top just to snare the readers who prefer the LP versions.

I’ll try not to do that.

But it’s very gratifying to know so many of you are lavishing the longer pieces with such attention.

And I promise I’ll do everything creatively possible to avoid cheesy stunts to keep from artificially inflating the word count above 1,000 just to lure readers who prefer the long haul.

And I promise I’ll do everything creatively possible to avoid cheesy stunts to keep from artificially inflating the word count above 1,000 just to lure readers who prefer the long haul.

And I promise I’ll do everything creatively possible to avoid cheesy stunts to keep from artificially inflating the word count above 1,000 just to lure readers who prefer the long haul.

Honest!



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