In traditional school settings, we are often taught to write to a minimum length. 500 word, 5 paragraph essays. Or a “10 page essay”.

In the real world, business or social, we’re often told the opposite.

Twitter gives you a 280 character limit, though that’s up from 140. From How Many Words is That? on the excellent Writers Write, that’s about 55 words, if you consider an average English word length of 5.1 letters.

Using our word counter tool, we would see that the paragraph above is 38 words and 177 characters long. Which is still about 5 times the length of the average Tweet in 2018 - despite the increased character count alloted!

SMS or text messages, until recently, did them same. Although now they’ll join it for you, long text messages used to come through disjointed as multiple, separate messages. And coming from a time not that long ago, where most people paid per SMS, every letter counted.

Not to mention society’s ever-dwindling attention span. So there are advantages to keeping it short!

While less is often more, there are times when, maybe it’s okay to write a bit longer. Long-form blogs drive more engagement, as do some essays. And writing can serve an aesthetic or experiential purpose well beyond the base function of communication.

Writing Concisely

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, has an excellent post called The Day You Became A Better Writer, which makes the case for writing more simply.

Now assuming you want to keep it short, here are a couple strategies:

1. Remind yourself to keep it short!

Silly but true. If clarity and being succinct are always top of mind for you, that’s great! But more often than not, we find ourselves consumed in what we want to say more than how we say it.

2. Edit.

One pitfall is to try to shorten things up as you write. It takes a lot longer because you figure out your ideas as you write. You’re better off writing the whole thing - and then figuring out what can go.

A related fallacy is that “it’s shorter, so it must have taken less time to write.” As Mark Twain once said:

“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

3. Start with the conclusion.

From How to write like the great entrepreneurs: start with your conclusion. Writing is a process, as we’ll discuss in other posts, that helps you build out your train of thought. It is a journey.

If you’re short on time, maybe just tell your readers about the destination, and let them ask for more if they need it!


Hopefully these tactics will help you write a little more clearly and concisely. That said, this was not intended to be an example of brevity! Long-form has its purpose - and that will be covered in my next post on How to Write More.