Regarding Long-Form Writing

Marco Arment, on the conflation between long-form works and good works:

The problem is that long doesn’t mean good — it just doesn’t look like most of the junk. Too many people now ask for (and produce) “long-form” when they really want substantial. It’s entirely possible to be substantial without being long, and good editors have helped writers strike that balance for centuries. Emphasizing and rewarding length over quality results in worse writing and more reader abandonment.


Sometimes, I admittedly get caught up in the length of an article — meeting a word quota and/or wanting to embellish so as to make myself think longer is better. More often than not, though, what ends up being published is just enough that it informatively and succinctly gets my point across. In fact, I believe the longest thing I’ve ever written has been just under 2,100 words. The majority of everything else is in the 1,000 to 2,000-word range, and it’s all good stuff.

I distinctly remember Glenn Fleishman encouraging me to write long as we embarked on “Re-Enabled” for The Magazine, because we could always cut back on material later. That piece of advice has stuck with me because it gives me permission to write more, even though not all of it will be used. It gives me a sense of what’s important and what isn’t, and is one reason I love working with editors.