I’ve noticed that my blog posts have been getting longer and longer lately. And, I’m afraid that other people are starting to notice…
Therefore, I’m going to try my darndest to keep my blog posts short, sweet, and one minute long (excluding videos or external links).
This dilemma reminds me of exhibit writing. Curators and exhibit developers often know a lot about the topic of their exhibit, and feel the need to share all of their information with the world. But that’s not a good idea. If you put too much on a label, the average visitor will glance at it and walk away. If you write too little, your visitors won’t get enough information to successfully experience the exhibit.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art
So what’s the compromise? The ideal word count for exhibit labels depends on the type of exhibit, the anticipated audience (and their reading level), and the amount of information you plan to convey. In addition, I highly suggest creating an outline of the exhibit so you fully understand how your subject matter flows through the space, what information is vital, and what information would be nice to include, but wouldn’t necessarily leave visitors confused if it was missing.
After that, I follow word counts closely. I keep my introductory text at 150 words or less, with section headings at around 75 words. Secondary information should be about 40 words, with captions at 25 or less. If you’re developing an exhibit for a scholarly audience, you can use more collegiate language than you would for, say, a children’s museum or family-oriented space.
While you certainly don’t want to “dumb down” your content, you should attempt to pick vocabulary that is familiar to a wide audience. If specialized language or jargon is needed to explain something, be sure to define the words.
Balance is key. The last thing you want is for someone to look at a label and say, “I don’t have the time for that!” or “There are words there I don’t know …I guess I’ll just skip it.” Remember your audience, remember your medium, and remember–exhibits are meant to be an educational experience.
Sometimes, no words are needed (at the Roman Baths in Bath, UK)
(p.s. I definitely went over my 300 word limit on this post. Editing can be DIFFICULT!)