From My Desk To Yours – 31st Edition

REACHING THE WORD REQUIREMENT W/O THE FLUFF
By: Penny, EzineArticles Managing Editor

Overheard from an editor at EzineArticles:

I’m noticing some authors are having a hard time with the 400 word count minimum. When an article falls short of 400 words, they often just repeat their article body, summarize their main points over and over, add promo or add in filler sentences at the end of the article body just to meet the minimum.

As an editor, it’s frustrating because some of these articles have pretty good content. Then, it can be narrowed down to just one or two sentences that the author adds to the end of the body in order to meet the 400.

Adding 50 words of fluff on top of a 350-word article won’t get the job done. You never know which tip or strategy recommendation will make the difference or solve a reader’s problem. Adding just one extra tip or original thought is usually enough to boost them over the word requirement …

Any of this sound familiar to you?

Some authors go into their writing session with an outlined plan of how much space they want to devote to a particular topic. Or, maybe they free write and find new subtopics to explore while they’re in the middle of writing. This group rarely falls short of the 400 word requirement.

Others stay so focused and on point that they feel they’ve said everything they wanted to say before they reach that 400 word mark. The problem is that they then have to “fluff” up their writing to get it to reach our minimum word requirement.

All too often that leads to authors summarizing their main points multiple times, adding promotional content, moving up part of the Resource Box to the article or even just copying and pasting the last paragraph to reach that 400 word mark. (Eek!)

Avoiding the Fluff

If you’re one of those Expert Authors that finds themselves stretching for content by the end of each article, you could be at risk of having those articles rejected. Fear not, though, because today we have a few tips to help you avoid the fluff.

  • List Key Points – Before starting, make a list of your key points. It doesn’t have to be a full-blown outline if you don’t want it to be. Just jot down the things you want to share. Then ask yourself, “Is everything on this list worth saying?” and “Are they powerful enough to warrant sharing?” Go above and beyond with your list. Add extra items to it.
     
    It’s better to keep your idea list long and cut it down later than it is to end up short and scrambling to add something later. Plus, you could generate enough ideas to warrant another whole article.
     
  • Adjust Your Focus – Think like a photographer for a minute. Once an experienced photographer has his sights on his subject, he adjusts his lens until the most important points of the image before him are in focus. The perfect picture has a balance in focus and activity. Although you might not think about it, you can think of writing in the same way. You, as the author, get to decide what to include and what to leave out.
     
    As you’re writing, take a minute to think about how broad or narrow the subject is that you’re talking about so you can appropriately and effectively adjust your “lens” to create the perfect article.
     
  • Know Your Stuff – Only write in niche areas where you are truly an expert. One of the worst things you can do is not know your subject area to the core through experience, thought and research. If you don’t, you could write yourself into a corner in a short article and not have enough content to get yourself out.
     
  • Tell a Story – Relate yourself to your work. It can be really valuable for readers to hear real stories about how the subject matter has affected you and why it works. If your article is coming up a little bit short, add a personal story to the introduction or conclusion that drives home the points of your article.
     
  • Avoid the Drivel – Don’t just drivel on in the summary to add words. Instead, add a completely new tip or caveat for your readers to think about. Offer your readers multiple options rather than just one. You never know which of your recommendations will make the biggest difference for them.

Use these tips to cut the fluff and stick to writing quality, original articles.

How else do you avoid the fluff? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

34 Comments »


1
Perry Mink writes:

So true. Some articles are a lot easier than others. I can write one, and go on and on. Then, others I really struggle with to make 400 words. It’s my niche, even though I know what I’m writing about very well, it seems that I am repeating myself over and over on the same subject.

Thanks for the tips

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 9:51 AM

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2
Barbara Wirth writes:

Oh, how lucky I feel to have been walking past your office door to overhear these points.

(I don’t think you saw me, did you? And, I wasn’t the only one standing like statues with our necks craned to catch all your great advice.)

Hope I’m nearby when you share more tips.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 11:50 AM

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3
Lisa Mason writes:

Great tips! I spoke with a client who admitted to doing this. He said “When I am short on words, I just repeat a sentence here and here. It’s not pretty but it gets the job done.” I couldn’t believe he actually said that or that he wasn’t aware there would be a problem with this. I helped him out but now I have a post full of tips I can refer people to.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 12:11 PM

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Lisa,

I’ve run into conversations like this a time or two. Many forget the importance of a reader’s perception or simply forget why they are writing and delivering quality to begin with.

These kind reminders from you and me help. And you found a way to re-purpose. Bravo! :D

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4
Thomas Bodetti writes:

This is a huge issue, online, with so many content authors out there the challenge to produce perfect content is bound to be an issue, the most interesting thing here to me in all these changes is the one very real fact that google and every publishers has forgotten in the rush to provide “better” content and that is the consumer.

Most consumers really don’t care about how perfect an article is or is not, they just want to get what they came for and that is value. I suspect that not everyone in the world speaks English or reads it for that matter, so there is a market for material that may not be perfect.

This has been forgotten by most publishers.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 1:15 PM

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Nick Kellingley writes:

Surely it’s a matter of professional pride to write good material? I know it is for me, I strive to be great for my audience – not just acceptable, I may miss the mark at times (I suspect everyone does) but my aim is always to be as good as I can be today and better tomorrow.

I think it’s a good sign that publishers are upping the bar for content – it provides a better user experience no matter what people would “settle” for.

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5
Martha Lipson writes:

Thank you for the tips they will help me out a lot. I can truly relate to a lot of the things your saying your article. Some articles I write I have not problem with writing them and some articles I really struggle to get them finished, even though they are all relating to my niche.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 1:27 PM

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6
Walter Reich writes:

I like the idea of making a list of the key points on your subject before you start.
Once you start you forget some points that you wanted to say in the first place.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 4:04 PM

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7

Bah, humbug. If you happen to write a wonderful article that is less than 400 words, just submit it elsewhere. Writing an email, out slipped a wonderful description of what a mystic is and does. So well written it flows unaware of its language. I posted it as a Note on Facebook and will put it on Self Growth. EzineArticles does not want it, so I would not bother them with it. EzineArticles has spoken.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 6:03 PM

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Nick Kellingley writes:

You do know that diamond level authors can submit shorter articles on EzineArticles articles right?

It’s not that all short articles are bad, but many are contentless fluff – so once people have proved they can write good decent length articles, they’re given some leeway to write good short pieces too.

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I think you have to pay them for that?
I read all this wonderful stuff about Ezine’s standards, and then I read the articles they publish, devoid of content, with major language blunders. In the past, what I called the yellow box monster would make the most preposterous assertions like “I think you are promoting yourself,” when the subject had nothing at all to do with me. Then there was a ‘We won’t publish this terrible run-on sentence” when they had to admit it wasn’t. Always something like ‘your grammar isn’t right,’ no specific remark, and the grammar is fine – especially compared to what I read that they publish. So I submit something, and if they don’t accept it, it has a happy home elsewhere. I do not write them missives to find out what ails them.

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Lisa Mason writes:

You don’t pay for diamond status. You earn it by consistently producing quality content.

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thomas bodetti writes:

Actually According to the FTC anything that has a value could be considered as payment, so if the benefits that are provided as part of that “status” articles approved earlier than others, and additional benefits, these according to authorities is payment, more so when you consider the level of quality that is being “demanded” so actually, yes, you do pay for it.

When ever something of value is bargained for and or provided that is of value, where you have value you have payment, that is economics 101

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Lisa Mason writes:

Thank you for the economics lesson. I was simply trying to answer Emily’s question.

If you want to be that literal about it, then there are many additional ways to look at it. I don’t believe I have to pay in any way to receive Diamond status as I neither applied for it nor changed any of my writing practices in order to achieve it. I am doing exactly what I was doing before there ever was a Diamond status.

To me, the real reward comes with results that I achieve through my articles. Quality is essential- now after Google’s Panda, it’s more important than ever. The quality of your content directly affects your ranking in Google as well as your credibility with the human reader.

Publishing on a site that demands higher standards that I am already providing is just a bonus. Personally, I choose not to publish on sites without such quality standards. It brings the quality of my own work down to be published alongside subpar writing.

If payment = hard work and value= results, EzineArticles really has little to do with it at all. I work hard and I reap the benefits that I sow. EzineArticles is just a tool (a free one, at that) to allow me to reach my audience. I’m not paying them anything; I am investing into my own success.

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8

Very good advice although I have never found myself in the repetitive mode. You should research your subject area well before you do an article. I have read where some article writers recommend that you take a lengthy article and try to publish many sub-articles from it and this is what could lead to shortcomings like this.I suggest that you avoid this practice. I have a difficulty keeping within 400 words for most pieces that I write.You should do your as a word document and double check its word count and readiness before submission to EzineArticles. I hope this helps.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 8:40 PM

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Lisa Mason writes:

I disagree that this advice is what leads to shortcomings like this. It’s actually very sound advice to split a 1200+ word article into 3 400+ word articles instead. The average Internet reader reads by scanning and will not continue to read a 1200 word article. The real “sweet spot” is around 400-800 but I typically stay between 400-600. EzineArticles even posted blogs here that recommend splitting a lengthy topic into smaller sub-articles. But each article should still have meat to it.

I agree with your advice to type first in Word. A+ suggestion. In addition to word count, there are many spelling and grammar features you can turn on to help you avoid these errors in your published articles.

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You get these features in your Member’s account as well. Spell check, grammar check, formatting, HTML, and so on. Either or will work. :)

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Lisa Mason writes:

That’s right, Penny. Thanks for the reminder. I love that your system has those features.

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Nick Kellingley writes:

I find the Open Office alternative better than Word which seems to disagree with the WYSIWYG editor here – with random carriage returns, formatting errors etc.

My net connection through the great Chinese firewall is a bit too random – to entrust a straight type into the editor available through the site itself.

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Lisa Mason writes:

Open Office is great for those who want a free alternative to Word as well. I have no problems with Word but I use the Word template icon to paste it in and it strips the non-compatible characters out, leaving clean text. I would never type straight in without a backup copy, regardless of Internet connection. 1.) You want to have a backup copy of your own work and 2.) Anything can happen to lose your work and you’d have to start all over again. Good advice, Nick.

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9
Mitun Ghosh writes:

Thank you for the excellent advice.

When I fall short of words, I choose to replace some of the words in sentences I’ve already written rather than repeating them. For instance I might replace “requirement” with “something that is necessary” which immediately ups the word count by 3, without changing the essential meaning of the sentence.

I have not faced a word count problem too many times. When I have, it is due to lack of meat, which is rather hard to substitute.

Comment provided June 15, 2011 at 11:11 PM

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10
Mily Ghosh writes:

Wonderful tips to be followed by the authors, particularly the primary authors. As I’ve a great flare for writing, your tips will help me immensely to proceed to write perfectly for submission of EzineArticles.

Comment provided June 16, 2011 at 1:21 AM

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11
Wade Coye writes:

Fluff can be killer in any sort of written piece. Most readers can tell when you’re stretching out for space purposes, rather than simply because you have more information to give.

Although . . . something can still be said for the old formula of: tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.

Comment provided June 17, 2011 at 1:01 PM

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12
Neil Ferree writes:

I don’t know which is worse, Fluff or the guys who use Spinners to churn out 401+ words of messy Fluff?

Those 23 questions you need to ask yourself whether your content will be well received by EzineArticles or Google Panda algo is a pretty good 1st pass for the litmus test

Comment provided June 22, 2011 at 5:41 PM

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Sonia Morrison writes:

I would like to see that list of 23 questions to ask yourself. I have written 3 EzineArticles and find it very valuable for articulating my expertise. The tips provided remind me to write further articles with focus and balance the tips with personal stories. Thank you. Sonia Morrison, soon to be published author of The Heart of Caregiving.

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13

I have Word but use Open Office instead. Try it, you’ll like it. I especially like the way you can fix the spell checker so it automatically corrects your frequent typing errors. As someone who types (too) fast, it allows me to type fast and not have to stop to correct as much.

By the way, the ‘ungrammatical’ article that I submitted here is featured over on Self Growth. I gave it a different title there to reflect my niche there. Self-improvement writers, check out Self Growth: It’s fun over there.

Comment provided June 25, 2011 at 5:45 PM

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14

To me, the best way to make an article longer is to think up another aspect of what you are writing about. Once in a while, I go back in the article, and write another presentation from that point on, then take what is below that and develop another aspect of it. To lengthen an article to present here (the ‘ungrammatical’ one), I simply added a paragraph that was an example, a story. I felt that weakened the continuity, but it was more informative. The article, sans the addition, is at Self Growth, and posted as a Note of Facebook.

Comment provided June 25, 2011 at 5:54 PM

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15
Kai Sensei writes:

“Adding or relating to my personal experience” or “viewpoint” really helps in adding up to those words! Even if the topic I’m writing isn’t my area of expertise, I try to connect it to me and how the current me will be able to encounter or interact in this particular area. When I’m really stumped, I ask opinions from other people, summarize it, and include it in my writing.

Comment provided July 1, 2011 at 6:55 PM

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16
ayou writes:

Sometimes the fluff at the end of an article is your most creative work. I know myself that text links in this area get clicks. And make money if you use the right advertising program. Just saying.

Comment provided July 2, 2011 at 7:24 PM

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Lisa Mason writes:

“Fluff” is never creative work. If your most creative work comes at the end of the article, this is not fluff. “Fluff” is crap stuffed in just to make word count that has no value or purpose to the article at all and often just repeats other phrases and points already made in the article.

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17
Thomas Bodetti writes:

I suspect that over all and this is not a personal observation but a logical result of what the market is we cannot change the market we can only change our small corner of the space that we occupy.

Try not to take this personally it is meant in a good way however, if I apply my time in the freelance market the same as you have applied your time to achieve this status symbol, at the end of the day, the revenue I generate will be greater than the revenue generated through a third party.

That is just simple mathematics, If I provide to my clients, the materials, that you provide to EzineArticles for free, I would not be earning much in the way of revenue, that is just the way of the world.

However, If I in turn receive payment for my time and efforts, from my clients, with no luck involved, nor any reliance upon a link at the bottom of a website, page that does not belong to me at all, then I have achieved a financial windfall that cannot be achieved by the business model of EzineArticles simply because there is no revenue sharing for top authors.

It is because of this very fact that no matter how strict, no matter how much quality, no matter how much value, EzineArticles intends to produce it will fail in the end because authors that produce the type of quality content that is demanded can more easily move into the freelance market and profit from that decision.

Leaving EzineArticles with this tendency to send out emails trying to educate sub standard, hobby authors with the desire to achieve a status symbol?

I write this in hopes that eventually some of this “We cannot see the forest for the trees mentality” will cause some serious consideration and not just a knee jerk reaction, in the end, without consumers, neither google nor EzineArticles can survive, if you spend all your energy attempting to curry favor with one search engine where does that leave you?

The simple fact here is this, the consumer is all that matters, and in my very firm opinion, the consumer is of a visual nature, Video and Audio metrics are clear, text is a second best in the market place, and anyone that does not realize this will in the end find that we really are all just dust in the wind.

Comment provided July 5, 2011 at 7:23 AM

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18

I have guided myself to write as if there are no perimeters. If I exceed the magic number of 400 words it then has the potential to become two articles depending on the topic and flow of information. I agree with Penny that preparation of a list of things to include in the article often (but not always) helps me to write with less fluff. The “not always” part comes when I am excited to share my thoughts and want to provide way more information than is truly necessary.

Comment provided July 18, 2011 at 5:48 PM

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19

You guys have such great content in your blog posts. Is any of this content published as articles in your directory? Just wondering.

Comment provided August 10, 2011 at 12:42 PM

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20
Leonard Arden writes:

Thanks a mill, Penny, it’s always nice to have a refresher even though the need for quality writing has been drummed into our pink little ear since Day 1.
It was good to look at those key points once more. Too often I get to the 350 mark and think: “Lawdy! what now – (in the main, my articles are of the 500 word persuasion). I admit to time wasting by re-reading my research material.
Now – and only after a lot of ‘pain’, I aim, for 100 words above the requirement and cut. Much easier to chop than to fluff. Great little read, Penny. Thanks again.

Comment provided November 29, 2011 at 4:11 PM

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