Are my blog entries too long? I've been scouring sources for a concrete answer to this question. Truth is, there's no concrete answer at all, except that most blog readers prefer a reasonably short entry. How do we define "reasonably short"?
I prefer blogs with just the right amount of bulk and pith. But what is the right amount? By pith and bulk, I mean that I have about 5 minutes to read your blog entry, yet I hope to glean something meaningful while I'm there. Here's a quick run-down of word counts of the most recent entries from blogs I read regularly:
My own last blog entry: 796 words
Okay. I'm on the right track. It seems the average blog entry is about the size of your average newspaper or magazine article (at least 600-850 words seems to be a common/popular word count in newspapers/magazines). Why?
Probably because there's something about this word count that lets writers hit the "bulk and pith" mark: "I've said enough, but not too much."
Can a blog entry be too short? Technically, no - especially if the writer posts multiple entries each day. As with most writing, the entire answer to this question depends on my audience and purpose. And for most bloggers, the audience and purpose are self-selected (even though anyone can read your blog, a blog writer often has a very specific reader in mind).
But should I leave this blog entry length up to my individual students? I've asked my students to write 400 words in each entry, but I've sometimes questioned this requirement. I'm afraid, however, that students would end up with zilch--a hundred words or so with no substance--if I didn't maintain this requirement. It's not that I don't trust my students, but I know that they bank on requirements for motivation. So if my 400 word count requirement helps them to close in on a reflective entry (for themselves and for their readers), then I'm cool with it. I won't lie, though: I'm re-thinking this requirement. Here's a little brainstorm...
Blog criteria, re-imagined:
1.Blogs will be evaluated on overall richness and density, but no specific word count will be required. Freedom!
2.In class we will evaluate a number of well-written, effective, and popular blogs that use different word counts.
3.Consistency will be emphasized as a desired attribute of blog entries.
4.Students will help me construct a rubric by which to grade the blogs (early in the semester), giving them more ownership of the assignment, which makes sense especially considering the autonomous nature of the Weblog to begin with.
I still have this hunch that truly pithy blog entries could be actually quite short, half the size of the average that I determined earlier. But for now I'm content with entries that average around 700 words for my own blog, 400 words for my students.
I haven't exhausted this word count question. But in the spirit of spontaneous (and not-too-over-thought) blog entries, I'm stopping now. I'm going to keep hunting for the ideal blog attributes... and I like the idea of more deliberately short entries. Check back in a year to see if my entries have shortened...
What's next? On the theme of ideals and consistency, how many posts should I require of my students? I've explored length; now it's time to explore frequency.
And as part of this frequency exploration, I want to try to answer the following question too: How long should it take me to write my blog entry? I spent too much time on this one (midst researching/location switches/editing). How much time should I spend on 1 entry, ideally? How spontaneous should I be? How much editing should I do? How long will my students spend writing their entries?
You may have noticed that it's been just over a week since my last entry, and maybe the fact that these entries take me so long to write discourages me from getting in here to write with more frequency (even though I always have a heck of a lot of fun writing each post). I don't want my students to suffer this same discouragement. I'm anxious to explore these questions.