Ideal Blog Post Length
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
Is there an optimal length for a blog post or an ideal depth? Some posts around the blogosphere are surprisingly brief, perhaps a mere sentence noticing an article or book publication or other event, while others probe deeply through layers of challenging ideas requiring up to 4,000 words to feature. Can posts be too short and snappy or too long and laborious?
When law journals were as old as blogs are today, review articles were pithy and short. For example, the famous unsigned 1880 review of Langdell’s Contracts casebook (attributed to Holmes) ran 1,200 words in volume 14 of American Law Review, packed with punch and still valuable commentary on the case method of law teaching. At the other extreme, an 1898 review of Keener’s Contracts casebook, appearing in volume 8 of Yale Law Journal, ran a mere 53 words, leaving the reader bereft.
True, articles ran much longer than the book reviews of late 19th and early 20th century legal literature, but still were limited to around 10,000 words apiece. And that enabled covering vast subjects. Over six generations, the average length bloated, with many pieces bursting to 50,000 words or more, before recently cut to around 25,000 words by some sensible law students. Book reviews in law journals often still run that length, though 8,500 words is the cap set by the prudent editors of Michigan Law Review’s Annual Survey of Books.
Posts here at Concurring Opinions average some 800 words, akin to old-fashioned print op-ed pieces, though no explicit policy rules and there are plenty much shorter (this one is 375 words). Co-Op’s guidelines for its book review project suggest 1,000 as the ideal length of book reviews, noting that they may range from 500 to 2,000 words. The same seems roughly the mode and norm at peer sites, including most of those listed on our Blogroll (scroll way down in the column to your right).
But I detect some increase in the average length and broadening of the range. Looking way into the distant future, imagine doing all reading and writing in this space. Posts once as pithy as Holmes’s review of Langdell become longer than law review editor caps. Yet even 53-word publications are possible.