500 Words or Less

Microsoft Word Clip Art

When I first started writing professionally, I was asked to provide high-quality content that got the point across clearly and concisely. It was suggested that I keep my articles to 500 words or less.

If you are reporting about a robbery (I never did) all you really need to do is answer the who-what-where-when-how-why questions and you can pretty easily keep it short. But if you are tasked with writing about organic farming operations in your area, it gets a little harder. And when it is suggested that you visit at least two of them, it gets harder yet. After all, you’d like to mention both and write about them both as a sort of thank you for giving up their valuable time to your efforts.

I was also writing for what you might call an article clearing website in exchange for freely advertising my own business. They also advised that I keep my articles short. So when I first started writing my novel, I actually had a hard time with descriptions of people and places and things. It seemed unnecessarily verbose. I’ve gotten over that.

I learned a great deal about writing, however, from the 500 words or less proscription. My writing became tighter. I learned to use words more effectively. I dropped redundancy. Yes, there were times a lot of editing was required. But I eventually got to the point where I could put it all together in my head so that it would remain within that limitation.

These days, though, I see on the Internet, many articles that are very long. That early proscription, at least here, no longer seems to apply. In some ways that’s good. I love an information packed article about how to do something that I’ve never done before.

In my opinion, every writer should, from time to time, challenge themselves to produce an interesting factual article, or bit of fiction, or an opinion piece (and maybe especially this latter one) in 500 words or less. You might even possibly approach every writing opportunity from this standpoint.

Pare it down to the essentials. Then, if you want, fluff it up with great prose or descriptions. Put in those writerly flourishes that you love.

It can be done. Case in point, when I finish this post, it will be 402 words long. Pretty good for someone who often has a hard time getting to the point.

Published by Dianne Lehmann

I'm a writer. But I'm also a wife and a mom to a couple of fur babies. You could call me a cook (but never a chef, I'm not that good) and provisioner as well. Laundress? Yeah. Probably. I design jewelry and I crochet. But mostly I love to write. I love words and how they sound. I love their meanings and origins. I love stringing them together. And of course, I love to read. Thinking about it just now, I realize that what I love most is life and the people around me with a special place set aside for my wonderful husband, our adorable dog and our inscrutable cat. It's the world and the people in it that fuels my writing. So thanks to you all for being the amazing beings that you are.

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