December 17 2009

Consider quality, not quantity

by Barbie in Style, Writing

Unfortunately, my regular blog posts have fallen by the wayside thanks to end-of-the-semester projects, the busy holiday season and, most importantly, a new ongoing editing project. In addition to my freelance work with my regular clients, I am copy editing articles for a number of websites. These articles follow a thorough style guide, part of which requires the writers to adhere to a specific word count. As some writers will tell you, word counts can be a blessing or a curse.

Word counts are a great way to focus your article. A 2,000-word article will be much more detailed and have many more references than a 400-word overview. While word counts can guide your research and outlining, they can also leave writers counting words rather than focusing on the quality of their content.

As an editor, it’s easy to spot when writers are trying to meet a word count. Excessive use of vague, fluffy words like “very” or “really” and too many passive sentences are my first clues. I also look for repetition or sentences that state the same thing in a different way.

It’s important to follow your document’s style guidelines and meet the word count. However, quality always takes precedence over quality. If a writer is 50 words under the suggested word count, but her content is strong, I always let it slide. If you find yourself well under your word count, then go back to the drawing board, and identify any gaps in your research.