Isn’t one of the basic “rules” of writing to “Omit needless words?” Then why is it that, these days, more and more clients are hiring writers solely for “word count,” rather than good writing?
“It Doesn’t Have to Be Good”
I recently had a client tell me “I need 2000 words on this subject. It doesn’t have to be good, just make sure you use the keyword at least 3% and try not to make it look Third World.”
Sadly, he isn’t the first person who’s given those directions. In fact, if you’ve ever written anything for a client on Textbroker, then you’re probably pretty familiar with having to write for word count.
But why hire a professional writer if you don’t want good writing? In fact, won’t good writing encourage people to return to your site/buy your product? (People aren’t visiting your website to admire your word count!)
Suffering from Bloat
With the era of the Long Sales Page upon us, it’s getting hard to tell what’s spam and what isn’t anymore. When I was young, only shady characters used long sales pages and the professionals kept their words concise. Not so anymore!
But marketing professionals aren’t the only ones suffering from needless padding. How many NaNoWriMo writers would have been better off writing a short story rather than striving to reach the 50,000 word minimum? Trying to stretch a 2,000 word idea into a 50,000 word story is usually a bad idea—and encourages bad writing.
One of my favorite English teachers used to tell me, “When it’s done; it’s done.”
If you’ve said all you need to say, why say more?
Why Word Count Matters
So then why are writers being hired solely for their abilities to meet a required word count? Unfortunately, search engines like a lot of words. If SEO plug-ins like Scribe have taught us anything, it’s that, no matter what, you have to write at least 300 words if you want your work to be seen.
One of the jobs I’m frequently hired for is to “beef up” the word count on someone’s article. Meaning, I go through their article and add in sentences (mostly related to “keywords”) to get their word count up so they’ll be more likely to stand out to search engines.
And I do it. Because I’m a professional.
But it makes me feel a little sad.