We live in a time where communication is evermore effortless and taken for granted. So much so, that the audience is impatient to get to the point and the authors need say more in less.
I learned this the hard way. My most recent article, which weighed in at ~2200 words, was quickly buried when submitted on a social site. I could tell it was the length had something to do with it. I wasted no time; I shredded 2/3rd of the article and came up with an abridged version. At 800+ words, at least one person complained that it’s not abridged enough. Yet, where the original got less than 40 views, the abridged version got over 2000 hits in the first day and translated into Japanese.
This is very unfortunate. Because, at one extreme, one should just state their conclusions as tersely as possible, and on the other, one should write a book-load to make well-founded arguments. The latter is when the topic you’re trying to tackle is complicated, controversial, highly-misunderstood or all of the above. You have no much choice but to go at length stating where you’re coming from and where your arguments lead. What about the other extreme? When can or should one be terse? Hard to say, but one thing is for sure: being concise and articulate are exceedingly difficult.
Yet, fortunately, there are those who appreciate a well fleshed-out article. The same article, unabridged, seems to have made the front page of DZone.com, where the article is republished, and from there over 600 hits followed to this site (2300 more on dzone.)
But how long is too long? Turns out it depends on the subject and the target audience. On the web, I suspect most typically want to get the gist in under 400 words. Should every lengthy article get an abridged version? Probably not. But if one wants to be heard, one should be mindful of their target audience. You can have the most insightful things to say, yet if no one has the patience to listen, then you might as well do something different… or rather, do it differently.