We dive daily into the Reader of WordPress.com just as many of you do, sifting through the latest posts like we’re foraging in a vast forest. One of the things we love about this community is the diversity: from brave pieces of memoir to political commentaries to observations on overseas experiences, there’s something to read for everyone.
A glimpse at longform writing
Right now, there’s just so much to read on the web. We’re big fans of sites like Longreads and Byliner, which curate longform journalism and magazine articles meant to be “read later” and savored away from our desks. And so, in addition to the wide range of topics, perspectives, and writing styles we look out for, we dig for and discover longform writing — stories and musings that take longer to unravel — published on WordPress.com, too.
Think narrative nonfiction or engaging journalism. An open letter or a personal essay. A working chapter of your novel or memoir, an in-depth opinion piece on what’s happening in the world, or commentary on an aspect of our culture.
Or think musings on seemingly disparate threads, from a post weaving books, windmills, and the pope to a discussion linking details, contemporary television, and James Joyce. In the first post, the writer really takes the time to explore her ideas (she even uses subheads to divide her post):
Stepping out of a certain box: the work box, the home box, the SF box, the US box. And then I look around and see all the different boxes around me, boxes I’m in, boxes other people are in, boxes we’re in together. Boxes are a necessity, I realize, an organizing principle, like the pattern I imagine connecting these random little coincidences over the past few days.
We don’t want to attach a word count to this mode of writing, but will simply say these posts are journeys we take with writers; we choose to follow them as they wander the far corners of their minds and explore their interests deeply. So, these posts require a bit more time from us as readers.
We’d love to surface more longform writing here on WordPress.com, so please tag your longer pieces with #WPLongform so we — and the rest of the community — can find them.
Themes for longform posts
Inspired by old-fashioned typography, Book Lite creates an enjoyable reading experience on your blog — your readers will love it. Evoking the delicate pages of a book, Book Lite is simple and classic. Callum J. Hackett’s posts on medieval Persian manuscripts and a book of strange and beautiful animals show this theme at its best, beautifully displaying your words with your images.
With the Manifest theme, your post content takes center stage and is presented in a neat, clutter-free way, offering your readers an intimate and direct experience. You can see this in action on Meagan Flynn’s blog, Beyond the New Yorker, which focuses on longform, creative nonfiction, and immersion journalism. (Meagan recently published a Q&A with Esquire‘s Mike Sager about longform — how fitting, don’t you think?)
While Esquire supports visually distinct post formats, the default “standard” post format is clean and bold, and adds a stylish red drop cap to the post’s first letter. Reminiscent of the pages of a glossy magazine, the design is perfect for the journalist in you. That Sounds Cool (or /’kül/), the blog of freelance writer Aaron Riccio, illustrates how Esquire supports longer posts, like his recent reflection on freelance writing.
Many other themes in our Theme Showcase complement longer posts — we’d never stop you from experimenting to see which one is best for you!
Do you regularly publish longform on your blog, or do you have any favorite writers on WordPress.com that share longer pieces? We’d love to hear about them in the comments.
Mar 20th at 8:03 pm
I am a long-form writer both on my non-fiction blog, A Matter of Scale (http://ebonstorm.wordpress.com) where I talk about how technology affects how humans live, decisions we have made, or the effects of technology on our society. My posts are not quite as long as the Atlantic’s but I do like to engage in a deep dissection of an idea which the standard 500 word blogger format simply does not do justice. My articles on technology definitely benefit from the long-form posting.
I also write my fiction long-form as well at Hub City Blues (http://hubcityblues.com) where I have a wide array of lengths and formats which I use to tell stories. I am still seeking the ultimate theme for my work but what I use right now has been more than adequate (Piano Black and Parament).
Mar 20th at 8:23 pm
Thanks for answering me. I’m currently multitasking from work, answering support forum questions and that means I’m pressed or time. Are you saying that if I do not use the #WPLongform twitter-style hashtag as a WordPress.com tag for Staff convenience when I publish a lengthy essay that my essay won’t be noticed by Staff and has no opportunity to be featured on Freshly Pressed?
Mar 20th at 8:46 pm
Hi again Krista,
Thank you so much for working through this with me. I believe I do understand you now and I do apologize for being dense.
Mar 20th at 8:52 pm
Most of my entries are about a thousand words, does that count as longform? … I guess it depends on the attention span of the reader!
Mar 20th at 9:11 pm
Hi, wonderful WordPressers! Amy Pierce here to say thanks for the commentary today about Longform. My blog, inspiritualwonder.us, is primarily personal essay delving into the realm of spiritual essay, personal transformation, conscious evolution and falls under the Longform tag/category. Thanks for the info about the tag; I’m wondering if the “#” at the front means I’d need to be tweeting to use that, or can I use it as a “regular” tag in tag words? Thanks much.
Mar 20th at 9:23 pm
Great post. Many of my blogs are long form (not a micro-blogger) and I’m really appreciative of the continual improvements to WordPress, especially the latest Learn WordPress tutorials layout. (I basically learned most of what is posted there by trial and error, but noticed some great tips which are helpful. Thank you. That said, I’m curious to know if WordPress.com users will be able to add the “Send to Kindle Plug in” especially for those of us who write longer form content. Will this feature be added to WordPress.com or only be available to WordPress.org users?
Mar 20th at 10:15 pm
This blog post on Longform by Cheri Lucas was assigned these tags: longform, longreads, wplongform. The post itself said to use this tag: #WPLongform. Which is the correct tag to use? longform or wplongform or #WPLongform?
Mar 20th at 11:00 pm
Interesting idea to tag for posts that could fit the longform category. I will try to remember to do that on future posts that meet the longform idea. i do not always write a bit more exploring ideas or looking in detai at a topic, but I do at times. As examples, I think these postings are some of my past work that would fit the longform label.
i have other longer posts, but thought I would not give links to all of them! My longer posts tend to either talk about Nature (Yosemite, Grand Canyon, LA County Arboretum) or books (Harry Potter Books, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy).
Mar 20th at 11:13 pm
Wow…these look awesome.
I’ll keep these in mind when it’s time for a re-design.
Mar 20th at 11:40 pm
Thanks for the response, Michelle. And, for putting my question into the WP think tank. The themes and options are getting better and better and It would be great for WP’ers to be able to share longform content on Kindle, too. Meanwhile, thank you for the WPLongform tagging tip and promotion. WordPress is the best. Thank you!
Mar 20th at 11:41 pm
Without a word count to guide, how would we know to #WPLongform?
If you were to take general Internet literature (is that a thing?) you’d (I’d) assume that anything over 500 words was Longform. Great idea though. Promote verbosity in all its glory! More vegetables and less candies! Yay.
Mar 20th at 11:46 pm
I find that any and all guidance provided by WordPress to improve blogs, and blogging, is enlightening and very welcome. Congrats ,and many thanks
Mar 21st at 12:21 am
My blog, It’s the Women, Not the Men! is primarily written in long form. Just last week I posted the last of my 3 volumes of essays.
I’ve only published introductions to most of my essays because once I had established a platform on WordPress I intended to approach Byliner with the completed versions. Another coincidence is that most of my essays run anywhere from 5000 to 25,000 words, filling Byliner.com’s word count niche as well.
Mar 21st at 12:40 am
Would you count this post I wrote recently as longform?… http://theleadershiplamplight.com/2013/02/22/a-walking-miracle-my-daughter-and-cp/ . It’s about the days when my wife and daughter almost died in delivery, when we discovered my daughter had cerebral palsy and when she recently walked with the aid of a walking frame.
Mar 21st at 1:18 am
I like this post a lot. It is compelling to me to see the tide turn toward longer forms of expression, when the recent trend had been toward microblogging. This is ideal for fiction writers, as even the shortest fiction — youth-oriented spooky campfire stories in my case — is longform writing in the blogosphere! A quick calcuation shows the average length of the 37 original short stories at my blog, http://www.scurrytails.wordpress.com, is about 1,300 words.
An irony is that for stories told around a campfire, there’s a premium on shorter stories — they simply hold attention better, and thus tell better. In light of this, we took to adding a featured called the “Tell Time” at the beginning of our stories, to help readers decide based on story length — derived by dividing the word count by 200 — this is about how many words I can read aloud in a minute. With the average story length of 1,300 words, the average “Tell Time” of a story on my blog is about 6 minutes 30 seconds — neat!
Mar 21st at 1:49 am
Many thanks, Ms. Lucas, for giving me a tag that I can sport with pride–although, admittedly, my wife’s more prosaic one of “wordy” is also, sad to say, probably still quite apt as well.
As a psychiatrist who writes about my experiences working with young combat veterans from the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, though, I simply have to write longer pieces (whether I actually “have to” or not). I know of no other way to describe the experience of sitting with a young man as he watches the faces of his dead comrades pass before him on a computer screen; or describe the pain of the fighter’s survivor guilt, as so beautifully sung by Eddie Redmayne in the film version of “Les Miserables”; or simply muse about combat trauma/PTSD in “The Hunger Games” as I reflect about Finnick Odair or about toddlers tumbling over the graves of their grandparents.
As I do think about other ways to express my passion for the future of these men and women in a more, shall we say, succinct fashion, I’ll still have to spend some time every week on my “Paving the Road Back” blog letting words flow, writing words that I can then share with those same men and women in the hopes that they will know that I’m still trying to listen, as imperfectly as I often do, as sincerely as I always try.
But, hey: I’m a shrink. Words are my life. They at least pay the bills.
Again, many thanks,
Rod Deaton, MD, JD
Mar 21st at 2:09 am
Hi – very new to WP.. Only one month and 6 posts in, but I’m absolutely loving it! I don’t think the question was answered about what may constitute long form? I have only one post that I think fits because it is 1500 words http://vintagebookfairy.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/fieldings-travel-guide-to-europe-1952-history-culture-and-mad-men-personified/. I was concerned about the length, thinking it would decrease readership, but I’m so happy to say it was reblogged! At my age, I’ve found a new high Just a rough number, please, would be helpful. Thanks!
Mar 21st at 2:24 am
This is fascinating! I spend so much time making sure my blogs are short and sweet, making sure to not stack too much copy in each paragraph. How much more challenging these longform pieces would be! What a true testament to one’s writing ability, to be proficient in both longform and more easy-to-read styles. Thanks for introducing me to this!
Mar 21st at 3:09 am
Great questions and comments from everyone. I’m gonna ask a newbie question so hold the tomatoes. So I do not overuse the recommended tag #WPLongform, what constitutes as longform? Thanks
Mar 21st at 3:20 am
I might have to check these out…. The thing is, some of my posts can be quite long, and others are just a handful of words and some photographs. It’s difficult to find a theme that really allows you some flexibility in both directions. I use Oxygen at the moment, which works fairly well, but I’m always on the lookout for something else. Thanks for the recommendations!
Mar 21st at 3:41 am
I love the idea of the tag. I used to write longer pieces, but sensed most of my readers were skimming. There may be a time after I publish my book when I may post an excerpt! Thanks!
Mar 21st at 4:08 am
I do a bit on my blog called “undying darlings” where I sporadically serial publish old projects –unfinished novels, short stories, and what have you. I started with a theme built for long form; I liked how the words were presented there, but as I have taken a new direction, I have changed my theme to one with more emphasis on photography. The Triton Lite theme is a great balance, I think. It has worked for me anyway.
Mar 21st at 6:17 am
Long form is definitely my preference and I am loving the book lite theme. I am an artist and writer new to blogging and have sampled several blog hosts in the process of making a mark in the online world. I have to congratulate WordPress on providing a simple and thorough format offering an abundance of useful and easily accessible features.
Mar 21st at 6:48 am
Thank you so much for doing that.
Love the Manifest theme. It’s really nice one!
Mar 21st at 7:46 am
What a wonderful world is WordPress – such a diverse, engaging and engaged community. I am so glad I joined it at the beginning of this year!
Mar 21st at 9:07 am
As a (qualified) journalist of more than 30 years, this was an interesting read, mainly because I had no idea what longform was.
So just to clarify, for Ye Aged Dinosaurs like me, it is basically shorthand for a longer article/blog/piece on the internet. Or does it apply to other media as well? And is it just written?
It sounds somewhat like ‘investigative journalism’, where an article would take up maybe two broadsheet pages (or sometimes more!) but in this case applicable to all genres, rather just investigative pieces.
The journalist in me would also consider the word long to be perfectly adequate, but times and words change.
While I can see your point about not being rigid regarding length, I think a guideline would be helpful. For example, somebody who virtually treats a blog as a tweet platform (which I saw recently) might consider 500 words to be longform.
Mine tend to be between 1000 and 2000, although I think I have been over the 2K word limit a couple of times.
Here’s a post from this week on roughseas at around 1700 I think:
And another on Clouds at about 1200, where I was discussing blogging tips, including length, and received some interesting feedback about the length of that specific post, and also my other blog posts:
I wouldn’t consider either of them ‘long’ per se, but as I pointed out in my tips, I think a lot depends on the writing style. A long readable post can be better than a short tedious one.
As a really rough rule of thumb, I would probably say anything under 1000 words wouldn’t be longform, and I would be looking at 1,500 plus. But, as I say, if someone writes 1000 words in small font on an unclear background with long paragraphs it can be extremely soporific, and thereby appears long. So, while I appreciate you don’t want to say 999 words doesn’t qualify and 1000 words does, I think a general indicator would be a good idea. After all the very name suggests it is basically about length of writing. Perhaps I should tag this comment WPLongform?
A couple of points:
1) Saying the tag should be #WPLongform in the bodytext and then explaining the alternatives in the comments might not be noticed by everyone. People don’t always read down the comments, so you may wish to consider changing the body text to clarify.
2) When we go into Dashboard to look at all posts, there is a brief summary of a few key stats. eg title, tags, categories, comments, likes, date published. It would be extremely helpful if the word count could be added to that, as it would give some idea as to whether or not longer or shorter posts attracts more interest from readers.
Mar 21st at 1:32 pm
When I write longform on my blog, I tend to break my stories into installments. Blogging is such a short-attention-span platform. It’s great to know that WP has created themes to fit longer stories.
Mar 21st at 1:53 pm
This is great! Almost all my posts are essays, so I am very happy that there is a way of marking them as longform, Hopefully, it will help me find more readers in the future:). Thanks!
Mar 21st at 2:24 pm
Nice to know longform is welcome. In high school my teacher returned a paper I’d written, with the comment: You’ve mastered the longform now try working on brevity. That was many years ago and I’m still working on brevity. I could go through my old posts and find the #longform ones and tag them:)
Mar 21st at 4:20 pm
I typically write no less than 2,000 words at lifeundetermined.com (life doesn’t knock blog). How does one simplify a love story and death? Helping widows is not easy, so many of my pieces are long. I have found those loyal readers like it and I’m glad to know that it’s appreciated across the board.
Mar 21st at 10:42 pm
My poems get long! I mean for me at least they seem really long but I like that! I get the point across and say what I feel. I guess free verse is one area where I don’t have to restrict my self and I like that! sfrinwhite.wordpress.com is relatively new but I’m sure I will find ‘my readers’!
Mar 21st at 11:01 pm
Some of my posts are just a shade over 1,000 words. Others around 500 –which tend to be occasional art (of mine). Personally I won’t be tagging any posts as longform or keywords to suggest any length. I certainly don’t reject a post because it’s 500 words or over 1,000. Instead I’ll simply keep things as they are AND give my readers/followers the choice to read parts or all of a post.
People who just talk/think/read in tweet lengths can satisfy themselves by looking my photos. And I know some just do that without reading hardly anything. That’s ok too! Some of my longer posts have better range of photos anyway.
Mar 21st at 11:10 pm
Longform can be interesting or it can boring. There are some longform bloggers that I like (e.g. Ribbonfarm) that I find riveting to read. And then there are some longform writers that are boring to read, and oddly these can come in two completely different forms: boring because their writing is abstruse and and overwrought, and boring because it’s sucky. My personal challenge or goal as a writer is aiming for “longform interesting” and not hitting the first kind of boring on accident whilst I whipsaw my drafts with new rounds of writing and editing.
Mar 22nd at 3:15 am
This is interesting… inspiration for a new project!
Mar 22nd at 12:59 pm
I agree the page format of a blog seems sub-liminally to prescribe short-ness, especially for PAGES. But this announcement gives me many other bloggers to visit! So I’ll stick to my present theme and go visit!
Mar 23rd at 2:31 am
I follow a couple of blogs where the writers have terrific posts that are easily 1,000 words. Is there a way for them to tag WPLongform and get noticed without re-publishing?
Mar 23rd at 3:43 am
Very interesting. I’ve been publishing weekly essays on nature and culture on my blog Ekostories for a while now, and it’s nice to know that there is a specific tag I can associate my posts with. Thanks very much for this!
As for a theme, I really enjoy Runo Lite at the moment. It is quite lovely for longform focused blogs, nice and clean but less spartan and wider than Manifesto, with good footers and looks good with the occasional image. Highly recommended.
Mar 23rd at 1:09 pm
Reblogged this on ENG 12H and commented:
As you graduate from teacher-assigned writings to musings motivated from within, descriptions like this might give you ideas.
Mar 25th at 7:41 am
Thank you for posting this. A love for longform is getting extinct. People like easy to swallow and ingest on-the-run kind of reading. Most of my essays and stories are longform. I will tag them as you suggest- in future.
Mar 26th at 6:13 pm
Reblogged this on Daragh Likes….. and commented:
gettin better and better!!
Mar 30th at 10:16 pm
I think I would put myself in the longform category. Some of my posts are short, but the majority of them go well beyond 700 words. A usual post for me is anywhere from 900-1200 words, some of them longer. I just wrote though until I am done. I don’t have a set standard or goal. I enjoy the process, and my readers seem to enjoy the extent to which I engage my topics. I’ll start tagging to give people the heads up that they might want to grab a cup of whatever ‘cuz they are going to be there for a while!
Apr 1st at 11:11 pm
Even though many folks have given great suggestions and thoughts, I would like to share a couple of ideas. I am writing long well researched articles on Town politics, primarily covering areas such as Local Government decision-making, ethics in government, etc. I am using Manifest, but have liked Esquire, Oulipo and others. Most of what I have written tends to be 3,000 to 5,000 words long. It would be helpful, if these themes would help provide a Table of Contents, preferably at any time while reading. Further, the reader should be able to read the footnote, if any, just by hovering over the footnote number. Any thoughts would be appreciated.