The longer your piece, the less readers will read
Size does matter.
The longer your story, the less of it your readers will read — and the less likely they are to understand and act on it.
That’s according to 60 years of research correlating story length with readership, comprehension, decision-making — even jam buying and 401(k) plan participation.
“We take it, as a given, that the more information decision makers have, the better off they are,” writes Malcolm Gladwell in Blink. But “all that extra information isn’t actually an advantage at all … In fact [it’s] more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issues.”
Increase reading by 33%.
Wilbur Schramm, the “father of communication studies,” was one of the first people to study the effect of story length on reading. In 1947, he interviewed 1,050 readers about what they read, how much and why they stopped. He found that …
- A nine-paragraph-long story lost three out of 10 readers by the fifth paragraph.
- A shorter story lost only two.
That’s the 33% reading gap between a short piece and a longer one. Bottom line: The longer your piece, the less of it they’ll read.
Leave them wanting more.
In his Broadway musical “Fame Becomes Me,” Martin Short quotes another Broadway actor as saying, “Leave them wanting less.” This study shows that the reverse is, of course, better advice.
Want people to read more of your piece? Make it shorter.
Source: William H. DuBay, Readers, Readability, and the Grading of Text, Impact Information (Costa Mesa, California), 2007