Refine Your Signal (or Fuck The Fluff)

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You may have noticed my blog posts have recently gone from an average of over 1,000 words to a much shorter 300-500 words.

After reading You should feel the pain when unclear by Derek Sivers I decided to experiment with writing shorter blog posts.

Derek’s article isn’t about writing less, it’s about being clear and concise.

For some reason, it’s generally regarded by most successful bloggers that long blog posts are more important/valuable.

But that’s not true. Most really useful verbose blog posts are actually full of lots of fluff and filler.

Why dance around in your content when you can get right to the point?

Here’s an experiment for you:

Next time you read a really long blog post think about how much of what you’re reading is necessary and how much can be edited out.

My articles still start as 1,000+ word tomes, but I edit, refine, edit, refine, until they’re as short as possible while still broadcasting the same message.

There’s an old saying in copywriting:

Write as many words as it takes, and not a single word more.

That’s why some sales letters are 1 page and some sales letters are 50+ pages. No fluff. No filler. Just sell.

In my past life I’ve had a short sales letter pull in over $35,000 in sales in 1 day, and I’ve had a long sales letter (sent to the same market) pull in less than $1,000 for a whole month.

There are obviously other factors involved when selling online, but the point is that the long sales letter was probably too full of fluff to be effective.

The same advice is relevant for blogs.

Refine Your Signal, Cut The Fat

If you need 4,000 words to get your point across, no worries.

But if you don’t need any more than 300, why write 3,000?

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{ 25 comments }

Dave M

Dude! Two posts and two F-bombs within three days!?!

LOL! Just giving you crap. :) I totally agree with the point of your post.

Karol

Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s NOT how you get popular. ;)

Nicky

From the perspective of a reader, I appreciate conciseness so much. Yet from the perspective of a writer and soon-blogger, I feel like my articles would benefit from having more words to develop (and therefore would be less valuable otherwise).

There is a disconnect here, for sure; I think the reader knows best.

Karol

Hey Nicky,

I know what you mean. That’s why my articles still start as lengthy pieces, but I’ve been cutting out all the fat I can. I don’t know that it’s the “right way,” and it actually takes longer than writing a long post and keeping it as is. For now, I enjoy the process of just getting to the core of the message.

Karol

Samuel Kim

Read your article on Zen Habits–traveling light sounds exciting. Right now on our blog we write monster posts hahaha but i think this post is pretty good…maybe I should work on shorter posts myself. It feels so hard to do that sometimes though! Anyways, awesome blog–we use thesis, too. :p

Karol

Hey Samuel,

Thanks for stopping by! I’m just testing the shorter posts myself. They actually take longer to complete (due to editing) than the longer posts. :)

Karol

Paul

Great thoughts. I’ve been trying to use the same process to shorten my tweets. Next: The blog!

Karol

hehe, at least with Tweets you can’t go over 140 chars no matter how hard you try! :)

Thanks for your comment Paul!

Karol

A

Hi there,

I just read your guest post to Zen Habits and then came over here to check out your blog. Looks very interesting!

-A

Karol

Thanks A! :)

Brad

Man, this is exactly what I’ve been going through with writing. I’ve been scaling back and spending as much time editing as I have been writing. Trying to keep it simple and to the point so that information is available and the reader has to “mine” less out of the post and hopefully walks away with some good content! LOL!

Just found your blog through Zenhabits. Loved the travel tip for traveling light…definitely gonna practice the rule of 3′s with clothes…I ALWAYS overpack!

This comment needs editing! Thanks for a great read, you’re now in my RSS Reader! Looking forward to more Karol!

Karol

Thank you so much Brad!

Editing out the fluff is tough, but I’m enjoying it.

Karol

Jon

Without a doubt. I mean why would anyone want to type, type, type anything which is not essential to say.

Fiction writers do this all the time, the cut and slice their drafts by 10% each time as usually they can be cut back.

Only put in what is essential to the plot and furthers the story.

Karol

Hi Jon,

Thanks for commenting. I think it’s simply what everybody teaches so when a new blogger starts a blog they follow the norm.

Karol

Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot

Congratulations on a great guest post. I hope it gets you lots of lovely new readers.

Re article length. I think people’s attention spans are shorter on screen and short posts are the way to go. Sitting at the computer isn’t the time to read too much detail. People want the salient points. They want you to get to the point.

Keep up the great writing!

Karol

Hey Annabel,

Thank you. I agree, but I don’t necessarily think shorter is always better. I just think if something can be stated succinctly it’s disrespectful to the reader to waste their time.

Thanks again,
Karol

Mac

This is not just in blog posts but novels, E-Books, Reports etc. The author makes some crazy claim and spends half the book going on about off topic garbage no one cares about

Then when you get to the claim, it can be summarized within like 1 page but it takes them 30-40.

I suppose its a way to sell more by giving an illusion of more.

Karol

So true Mac, so true. It’s a bit annoying to spend money on a book/ebook/course and then have to waste hours reading info that could be just as easily doled out in minutes. I’ll still spend the $100, I just want the info straight up!

Casey

Great post & great title, haha. I think the more you are concise, the more somebody will want to come back.

Karol

Hi Casey,

Thanks! Yes, that is the ultimate goal anyway. :)

Karol

Randall

Great stuff! I found you two days ago, your fast becoming a fav. I know you will love singapore! At the risk of sounding silly, what do or did you do for a living? Thanks

Karol

Thanks Randall! That’s probably a post all in itself. If you Google search my name you’ll find a lot of the stuff I used to do. :)

Travel purses

Hi Karol. I read your post over at Zen Habits. I totally agree with you — travel light and write short articles. Less worries, less mistakes and more time to focus on the essentials.

Ash

Hi Karol
Just discovered your awesome blog! I’m trying to do more “quality” posts, and I’ve found that I write a lot and edit out a lot. As a Hemingway fan, I agree that less is more. More thought-provoking, more intense, and more enjoyable.

Karol

Hey Ash,

Thank you! I’m glad you like my blog. :) Hemingway is probably a good guy to follow. (Except for the heavy drinking.)

Karol

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