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August 20th, 2007

More Words = Better?


It’s rumored that Mark Twain and/or Arthur Conan Doyle sent this telegram to several prominent men–”all of whom packed up and left town immediately.”

WACs operating teletype, DOD photo In the “old days,” when Western Union charged by the word for telegrams, laconic was trendy. Poetic, even.

Using email instead of telegrams has meant that we simply don’t have to watch our word count as carefully. And people don’t watch their word count as carefully these days, do they?

What I wonder is, between decreased attention spans, and decreased screen sizes (as more people use mobile devices), will we see a return to terse?

If you were paying for your newsletter by the word, what changes would you make to what you say, and how you say it? And how might pretending you were paying by the word make your newsletter better?

I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

(Photo from Wikipedia.)

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7 Responses to “More Words = Better?”

  1. Terri says:

    I think it’s not about how many words, but rather the quality of the message. Paying per word is an old world way of paying for editorial, or articles. I’d rather sell the value of my content, my secrets and insights, my personal touch or twist.

    After all, isn’t that what the client is seeking (well, besides gossip or a snarky joke)?

  2. Charlene says:

    Couldn’t agree more with Terri…except for the gossip and snarky joke ;)

  3. Daniel says:

    well, more words better? I think it depends, first of all not to many people like to read a lot on there computer monitor, likely I prefeer graphics and words about the theme I’m interested, layouts, desings, and a good explanation work for me, but, of course, if I’m really interested I can read a lot and don’t complain. So, my perfect newletter is, good text, and a couple of good pictures (layout, graphics, photos) that have something to do with the subject, no big ads banners.

  4. Carolynn says:

    It’s about economy of words. Message quality is key, which involves distilling the message down to its core. Decreased attention spans, less time, message proliferation, and smaller viewing screens demand shorter, more concise communications.
    “Pretending” to pay by the word instills greater value into each word used, and thus meets client needs by valuing their time and attention. Give it to them quick, brief, and worthwile.

  5. Larry Jaffe says:

    Personally, I like getting paid by the word, but that does not mean I should abuse the trust that I have with the reader. Newsletters should verbal bites that can be easily taken in and understood with more information available. They should be snappy, attention grabbing in a positive way and to the point. Most importantly, newsletters should be friendly and helpful and not full of hype. I think I have already gone beyond my word limit and end off here.

  6. Karin Vrij says:

    Oh no, I hate long newsletters. I don’t have the time
    nor the patience to read it. Also I don’t
    like scrolling the page, guess I’m a bit lazy too.
    I go for quality and bullit points as I use in my newsletter.

  7. Richard says:

    Omit unnecessary words. Does anything else need saying? Choosing which words are unnecessary – now, there’s the problem…

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