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Pull in Readers with these 5 Short Form Writing Tips

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Less is more. As in short is more. Or it can be – even when it comes to online content.

Yet short form writing (1,200 words or less) gets a bad rap when compared with its lengthier sibling. “Long-form content is the gold standard in content marketing,” explains content strategist Julia McCoy

Critics are eager to point out when short bits of writing lack substance. Fewer words, say detractors, translates to less value.

But not all short content is superficial. And yours needn’t be.

5 short form writing tips with Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter #WritingTips #ContentWriting #COntentMarketing

Don’t write off writing short

There’s plenty of short to go around. Over 85 percent of online content is less than 1,000 words long, say SEO specialists of Moz and BuzzSumo

One reason? Short content takes less time to write. Faster turnaround allows writers to produce more of it.

But more supply means more competition. Short content has to work harder to get noticed, thanks to the plethora of quick blog posts, tweets, and brief listicles that flood the internet.

Yet just for a moment, take off your writer’s hat and put on your reader’s hat. Don’t you love snippets of information and succinct articles that clearly answer your question in fewer words and less time? Me, too. Well-written short content gives me the quick-and-dirty that I’m looking for.

So instead of writing off writing short, use the length to your advantage. When you’re one of the writers that provides concise, valuable information, then you stand out. Upgrade your short form writing game with these tips and readers will flock to your content.

How to write short well: 5 short form writing tips

1. Answer a very specific question

You’re not writing a term paper. Don’t waste time with tangents, asides, or sweeping generalizations. Choose one main point or special angle on a topic – and stick to it.

When you try to cover too much information in a brief piece, you can easily be overwhelmed and then cram too much into one short space. You simply cannot do justice to a broad topic in a short piece. Your attempt leads to superficiality decried by short form writing faultfinders.

Instead, focus on one point, question, problem, or idea.

Just one.

Make it a good one. Which means you should …

2. Offer a unique twist

What better way to be helpful and memorable than by offering a surprise?

While it’s inevitable that you’ll cover the same ideas and answer the same questions as your competitors, you can differentiate your short content with a unique twist, distinctive data, startling story, or unusual point of view. Even a short piece can provide value with an informative insight, practical tip, or thought-provoking idea.

3. Use a long tail keyword

Choose an appropriate long tail keyword or two for your piece of short form writing. Then use it in the content’s filename, page title or headline, first paragraph, and at least once for every 300 words. Where possible, weave in slight variations of your chosen long tail. 

Long tail keywords (search terms that are 3 words or more) get less search volume than broad keywords. They’re more specific than commonly searched-for terms.

Plus, long-tail keywords account for 70% of all searches, according to SEO tool provider A Hrefs. Search engines notice when you position a long tail keyword prominently and offer quality, relevant content that supports the term. Your content will appear higher on results. (Even though it’s short.)

Plan and track your content using this fillable and reusable
Content Calendar.

4. Link to additional information

Short form writing can’t cover all the bases. But if you include contextual links – links within your content – you augment the information you offer to readers. (For example, here I linked to a page that explains contextual links in more detail.)

Contextual links give readers the chance to get more information about a term you touched on or take their own rabbit trails. Plus, with internal contextual links, you lead readers to content on your own site, thereby giving them more information that earns their trust and establishes your authority. When you offer an external link to a quote or a specialized topic, readers respect you for giving expert information. 

Best practice for quality short form writing? Offer both internal and external links.

5. Make it easy to read

Do you use your mobile phone to find online information? So do your readers. Make your short content easy to read and digest. Readers appreciate scannable content. I know I do!

Go short and go gold

Everyone tells you long form content builds a following. But don’t write off writing short form content. It’s quality content that pulls in readers, whether the piece is long or short.

Set a new gold standard by writing content with one sole purpose: it answers readers’ questions with helpful, memorable, concise information. They’ll reward you by reading every word of a meaningful message. Even if it’s short.

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