250 words is the soul of wit



From time to time, I recall Matt Mullenweg’s casual aside that the

average number of words per post is almost always exactly 250.

That number is so small! My average post is perhaps 600 or 800 words long. Perhaps it’s habit: that is the length of most articles in The Economist.

Still, the fact that the average is so stable fascinates me–just as the remarkably stable number of members in the social groupings of primates fascinates me. It suggests that perhaps there is an optimal length for this medium (ie, blogging).

Readers of blogs don’t expect essays. They expect short, bite-sized nibbles, somewhere between the thought fragments on Twitter and the polished articles in a magazine.

Or perhaps 250 words is simply what fits onto one screen on most laptops and browsers, and blog readers don’t expect to have to scroll down.

In any event, I (who have written a 110,000-word book and think nothing of reading 500-page books) have discovered that I find it difficult to get through long blog posts. They tire me out. And I have noticed the irony that when I last opined on length, as opposed to depth, in writing, it took me 1,008 words to praise… brevity!

Polonius, the father of Ophelia and Laertes in Hamlet, did it better, of course:

brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes.

So I’ll try to keep my posts shorter. This one, as you may have guessed, is exactly 250 words long.

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