Writing an article: decide your length

Length is an important consideration for any writer who is writing for a broader audience—which means that in nearly every circumstance, some thought must be given to the topic. Determining the appropriate length for an article depends on several different factors:

  • The audience
  • The topic
  • The publication type
  • Publication Type

One of the most critical factors to consider is where and when the article will be published. A featured magazine article has differing requirements than a front page newspaper article, which differs from a page-3 newspaper article, which differs from an academic journal, and so forth. The same is true of internet-based publications. One way to figure out what the basic length requirements for your article should be (assuming that the editor hasn’t given you firm guidelines) is by looking at similar articles in that publication. While one blog may favor 500 word articles, another may stick strictly to a 350 word limit; a third may prefer articles of 1,000 words or more.

The Topic

Naturally, the topic itself will have some effect on the article length. Luckily, this is one of the major ways in which a writer can make adjustments in order to meet the requirements of their editor. For example, an extremely broad topic may not be suitable for a 500 word article. If a 500 word limit has been imposed, however, a writer can at that point narrow the topic down in order to craft a well-written article of the appropriate length. A rather narrow topic can be fleshed out for a longer article by including interesting information on tangential topics as well. There’s really no limit on what can be accomplished, but it may take some creative thinking on the writer’s part in order to adjust the topic carefully to make it appropriate for an article of the desired length.

The Audience

Editors do not always impose minimum or maximum length requirements, and under those circumstances a writer must do their best to determine the appropriate length of the article themselves. To do so, they should take into account the subject matter and the audience. Does the audience want to read an in-depth examination of a narrow topic, or a broad overview of the topic in general? These things can affect the length of the article significantly. To get a ballpark figure for the length, the writer may wish to create an outline and guesstimate the length of each paragraph.