Good Limits Bad Limits and Word Limits

imageSpeed limits – Good but we should build in some slack for people driving convertibles and people listening to country music.

Credit limits – Good but consideration needs to be given to people who have recently broken up with a girl/boyfriend and need some self-indulgent shopping.

Coverage limits – Good for insurance companies.

Term limits – Good, but we need them for every political office unless a super-duper majority votes otherwise.

Power limits – Bad, unless you’re battling Godzilla because I think he can absorb electricity and it makes him stronger. Otherwise “more power” is the way to go.

Word limits –???

A couple of weeks ago, I was busy adding someimage drama to this blog by asking you to help me figure out what to do with the Stream of Consciousness Saturday (SoCS) Challenge. In retrospect, I knew should have known the answer, but it felt good to read some of your comments. It was also the only time I’ve ever used a poll on this blog and the only time anybody filled out a poll on any of my blogs. The votes have been counted. The people have spoken.

Write whatever you like Dan but no more than two posts per week and don’t try making them longer.”

I added the last bit but it is fully supported by my editor. Actually, my editor didn’t even like my adding a potential third post as an option. Fortunately, the poll was added after the fact in WordPress so she didn’t have a chance to veto that. Then again, you ALL did, and my editor thanks you all.

I mentioned my word limit for this blog in a post about my daughter’s and my visit to an abandoned and demolished state psychiatric hospital. In response to that post, someone mentioned not knowing much about switchboards. I replied with a link to a video showing a switchboard in action. I mentioned that I had planned on including some information about switchboards in the post it but that it would have put me beyond my self-imposed word limit. She added that while people have mixed feelings about word limits, she thinks they are a good idea. So do I.

When I first started blogging, I was working under a imagelimit of 400 words. Anybody who really knows me knows that I can hardly order a beer in less than 400 words.

So, what do you have on tap? … Hmm I’m not familiar with that, I like Yuengling, I see you don’t have that but are any of these nice lagers? What about…”

Seriously, what was I thinking? While 400 words isn’t nearly enough for the topics I’ve talked about here, it remains a point where I start to pay attention to the word count. If I haven’t begun to zero in on my point, I know that it’s time.

I upped the limit to 800, a limit that I still use for my technical blogs. Technical blogs can be tiring, so if I can’t spit those thoughts out in under 800 words, I feel like I must have two thoughts jammed together.

Here, the limit is 1,000 words but I start to seriously fidget when I hit 800.

Does a word count cause me to leave important stuff out of the story? Maybe, maybe not. Besides, if it is revealed that I left something out that would have been useful, like the switchboard information, I can add it back in a comment.

In general, I think a word limit is a good thing. Operating under one forces me to do a kind of Content Editing, if I’m adapting Michelle Mueller’s lessons on fiction editing correctly to a completely different type of writing.

BTW, if you enjoy writing and haven’t yet discovered The Sarcastic Muse, check, it, out, now. I have bookmarked so many posts from the fantastic ensemble cast over there that I’m starting to organize them into my own reference book.

Michelle was talking about hiring editors. I press my wife into service for editing, and she does a pretty good job, but I don’t pay her. I find editing my own to be hard, because I know exactly what I’m talking about. It all makes sense to me. I once complained about editing my own work to an editor friend of mine and he said: “editing is easy Dan. Just remove every word that doesn’t matter.”

That’s kind of like the old joke about carving an elephant – “First, get a block of wood and then remove everything that doesn’t look like an elephant.

Of course he and I were working on a newsletter and we were using Adobe InDesign (page layout software). InDesign is brutal. You are writing inside a “bounding box” and if you write too much, it just doesn’t appear on the page.

Just so you know, in an earlier draft, I had 220 words about InDesign. I attribute that to the influence of writing technical blogs for 5 years. They didn’t add anything to this story so they’re gone. In fact, I don’t think I have any more words that will add to this story, so you get a break today – 864 well under the limit.


Pictures – We saw that sign on our way through Pennsylvania last month. I think the guy ahead of us was speeding. Yuengling has only recently made the trip from Pennsylvania to Connecticut. It’s always been a favorite of mine.

About Dan Antion

Husband, father, woodworker, cyclist, photographer, geek - oh wait, I’m writing this like I only have 140 characters. I am all those things, and more, and all of these passions present me with opportunities to observe, and think about things that I can’t write about in other places. I have started this blog to catch the stuff that falls out, overflows and just plain doesn’t fit the other containers in my life.
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30 Responses to Good Limits Bad Limits and Word Limits

  1. cardamone5 says:

    Yuengling is awesome. Used to live in Philly where we drank it all the time (I could remove the word it to lower my word count and still be accurate!)

    I am mindful of word limits, but do not impose them much. Probably should more as I can be very wordy.

    Great post.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sammy D. says:

    Your editor paid for our votes.

    I like the elephant joke.

    My writing fidget figure is 750. If it’s longer and I’ve revised all I can, I consider the reader value of a two-parter or series. Value being in the pen of the writer!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loisajay says:

    I didn’t know there was a word limit for you writer types. Can’t order a beer in less than 400 words?! That’s too funny! Yeah, I can see the bartender rolling his eyes as we speak……

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I don’t pay much attention to word counts. (In case you thought I’d never noticed lol!) When I was in college, I’d get so amused about being asked to write a short story, under 3000 words. I’d get the A for content and A for grammar and then in the margins, along with the praise, I’d get feedback like, “Tell us more about this secondary character!” or “More detail!” and I’d be rolling my eyes all over my desk, thinking, “Well then don’t give me a bloody word limit!” But whatever :P

    Credit ratings are awful. It only takes a few months (out of a job) to ruin a credit rating, and it takes three years to build it back up. There should be a better way. Like a byline, “Look how I managed to house and feed a family of five on half my previous salary…” LOL somethin like that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Your writing flows along at such a good pace that I wouldn’t worry about word limits either if I were you. I agree that you should be able to tell a story around the metrics of things like credit rating. My daughter might extend that to speeding tickets (she’s the inspiration for the country music exception). I guess people who like to write/talk would always prefer to explain things. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Norm 2.0 says:

    Word count is one of the primary reasons my blog has shifted more to my photography than my writing.
    I know that I’m somewhat long winded and I have trouble staying under that 750-800 word *magic threshold.* I set many pieces aside for editing and then either never edit them or don’t have the heart to :-(

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      I have been trying to integrate photos into my stories but I’m fighting the call to do just photos or photo featured posts. I am trying to stay closer to 800, but I think I upped it to 1,000 just to give myself some slack. I worry when I approach that though. Thanks for the comment. And pop one of those longer guys out here from time to time.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Michelle Mueller says:

    Thanks a ton, Dan, for the link back to TSM. Really appreciated!

    Word limits are a real pain. I can definitely understand how you feel. We have one (sort of) at TSM, but I tend to ignore it with my editing posts. Too much to say, too many examples to give! Though I do try to make them as concise as possible. In general we aim for our posts to fall somewhere between 350-750 words. No one’s fired me yet for going over, though.

    I think your word count should depend largely on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re writing for you, then I say write however much you want. If you’re writing for other people, then I’ve heard the shorter the posts, the better. Apparently readers these days have a limited attention span and limited time. Mixing it up probably couldn’t hurt either.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Michelle. I really enjoy TSM, it’s one of my favorite reads. I am going to try to work in some shorter posts. Actually, I’ve been trying but it’s not working. Oh well, it’s good to have goals :)

      Like

  7. kcg1974 says:

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    Liked by 1 person

  8. I usually have no limits on how much I write for myself. When I write for clients they usually tell me how long the post should be because I charge them accordingly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Your posts read so well Sharukh that, as a reader, I don’t pay attention to the word count either. Do you ever find they you have too little room of too much to fill? (When working)

      Like

  9. Happy Saturday, Dan. Don’t worry about word limits, I like reading your posts.😄
    I don’t pay have a word limit for my posts.
    About self indulgent shopping…I don’t need a reason at all. 😄
    You ordering your beer is equivalent to me ordering my dinner at restaurant that I’m visiting for the first time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Elaine, I appreciate knowing that. I have a friend who, when visiting a new restaurant, will walk around and ask people what they are having and if they are enjoying it. I could never do that, but it always seems to be a good experience when he does it..

      Like

  10. Sandi says:

    Honestly, your writing keeps me with you, Dan: I don’t think about the length. You have a great mix of narrative, commentary, humor, and dialogue.

    Word limits are a necessary evil at times. I had a word limit of 250 words or less for a piece this week (not my long-winded blog), and it was so painful. I did it — but the 400-word version was better.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah the word count! It’s a challenge for me too. I don’t really have an editor for my blog but a faithful reader who happens to live with me. He likes short and to the point. I like details and long stories. But I agree that short blog posts are often best as we are all following so many blogs that it’s a challenge to get to read all of them. Yet I find that most of my favorite bloggers tend to write less often but longer posts. And this is probably a good rule to remember: either short and more often or longer and maybe just once a week. Honestly I think that you’ve found a pretty good balance since the majority of your posts are longer than average but you also have occasional reblogs or links to other blogs, allowing a nice break in between longer pieces. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Peter Nena says:

    I love that statement about carving an elephant. Nice one, really. And I marvel at the fact that you wrote blog posts worth 400 words, even 800!
    I’m the worst if it comes to word limit. Logorrhea–diarrhoea of words. I think I suffer from it when I sit down to write. There seems to be flash-fiction craze in the blogosphere, but every time I try to pull out one, it gets out of control and I end up with at least 5000 words. Which is weird because in real life people think I am taciturn, even shy. I worked in a certain company for a year, and by the time I was living one colleague remarked that I wouldn’t be missed because I never speak.

    That Yuengling drink looks great by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dan Antion says:

      Thanks Peter. These days, as I watch all the November challenge activity, I think that there must be a real limit as I can’t fathom writing 50,000 words in a month. That takes me 6 months and they are 1,000-word unrelated chunks. Your stories don’t seem that long to me. They are long enough that I have to set them aside and read them when I have time, but you work through a number of scenes and I’m usually hooked pretty early.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. reocochran says:

    I enjoyed all the plays of limits. I am one who likes to occasionally have fun with wordplay, too. Thanks for this one, Dan!

    Liked by 1 person

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