How to Keep Articles Within Given Word Limits

How to Keep Articles Within Given Word Limits

Having a bit of freedom when working on an article is surely something writers value. I mean, you never know exactly how many words will conveying a certain message required by clients, right?

But sometimes, especially if you’re creating content as a freelancer, learning how to keep your articles within a given word limit is a handy skill to possess.

Why?

I can see a couple of reasons. First of all, and this is the most obvious one, your clients will usually require articles that are between X and Y number of words.

If you’ve ever signed any type of a freelancing contract then you know what I’m talking about.

To take it even further, if you’re billing your clients on a per word basis, as opposed to per article then they can (and often will) ask for an exact number of words (and they won’t pay for more).

Believe me, I had clients asking for 450 words, and then when I delivered 467 they said it’s too many…

The second reason why you should learn how to keep your articles within a given word limit is that it allows you to gain more control over your writing. Which in the long run simply makes you a better freelance writer.

I’m not saying that you have to take the number of words into account every time you write something. But being aware how many words you need in order to convey a given idea is always valuable information. Not only when talking to clients, but also when doing your own work (perchance personal blogs or portfolios).

At some point in my career, I absolutely had to learn how to do it. Once I got yet another response from one of my clients that another one of my articles is too long – again – I knew I needed to do something about it.

Since then, I developed a specific method of crafting an article that has to fit within given word limits.

Use short introductions

The most natural way of writing an introductory paragraph is to write it first. Apart from the fact that you get the word-flow going, you also gain a better idea on what you want to write about.

However, making your introduction too long can backfire pretty easily. For instance, if your client wants a 600 word article, and your introduction takes 300 words then you’re in trouble.

What I do is I either write no introduction at all, or craft just a single paragraph. Then, once I am done writing the whole thing, I go back to the introduction and add information to it if there are still some words left.

Note. Don’t be afraid of writing freelance articles with no introduction at all. Readers often skip the introduction altogether. If you’re creating a simple article where the core content is the essential part (like, for example, “10 Best iPad Apps for Business Owners”) then your article won’t lose any value even if there’s no introduction, or just a single sentence.

Order your ideas according to their importance

Whenever you’re writing an article, inevitably some points are going to be more important than others.

Before you start writing, always list all points you want to mention, and order them according to their importance (by whatever standards).

The reason for this is basic. If you have a limited number of words to use then some points may end up being left out, and you surely don’t want for the most important ones to meet such a fate.

By writing about the most important stuff first, you’re providing good service to the reader because they don’t have to read the whole article to get 80% of its value, and you’re also making sure that even if you run out of words, the article will still be a solid piece of work.

Get the subheadings in order

Now it’s time to write the exact subheadings you are going to use in the freelancing article.

Once you have, say, 10 of them waiting in place, and you know that the final article needs to be under 800 words long, it means that each subheading has to be explained in less than 80 words. This is just an example, but I’m sure you get the idea.

This may sound like a big restriction (like it limits your creativity as a writer). However, in practice, it’s actually of big help.

Contrary to the common belief, one of the main problems in the freelance writing world is not to meet a given word limit… It’s to not exceed it.

Being able to convey a complex message in 1,000 words is easy. Being able to do it in just 10 words is a serious task.

Staying within the limits, and estimating how many words you have left for each subheading teaches you how to handle such situations.

Summary

No, it’s not the summary of this article. This is advice on how to deal with summaries.

In my opinion, the summary has a similar importance as the introductory paragraphs. Which means that if there’s space left to write a proper summary, you can do it. But if there isn’t any, you can skip it altogether.

Writing summaries is some leftover school stuff. Back in school your teacher told you that every essay has to have a summary, right? In the real life, it’s not the case (luckily).

Quite simply, if your article needs any kind of summary then it’s probably too complicated.

In the 21st century, especially when it comes to writing stuff meant to be published online, articles have to be easy-to-grasp on their own, without any summaries.

You really don’t have to go through your article and list everything that has been mentioned in it. However, you can do one cool thing and ask your audience a question (when dealing with a blog post), or give them some call to action, so they are not left to themselves wondering where to go next when they finish reading your article…

And since this was the last piece of advice I had for you, let me take a page out of my own book and summarize this article with a quick question: Do you handle a lot of work where there’s a word limit that can’t be exceeded?

About the author

Karol K. is a freelance writing specialist and blogging expert. He’s passionate about doing business online and using modern tools to make freelancing easier. Also, he considers guest blogging one of the best promotional methods ever. Feel free to visit him at YoungPrePro to get more info. 

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