What kind of conversation makes you uncomfortable? For me, it’s asking for…well, for just about anything. This came up at Erin Marcus’s workshop on difficult conversations the other day.

Why is it so hard to ask for help? Because people will say no. They’ll think less of me for asking. They won’t like me! Specific example: I asked you to support my mission trip to Senegal, even though asking put a knot in my stomach. The response was, let’s say, underwhelming.

Naturally, I cited that as evidence that I’m right not to ask for help—because I likely won’t get it.

To which my fellow workshop participants said, “Wait. I didn’t see that.” “You’re going where?” “How can I help?”

I was wrong. They hadn’t rejected my  request. They hadn’t even seen it. Because when they read the newsletter, they didn’t scroll past the first article. So they didn’t read about workshops in Dakar to help women pull themselves out of poverty.  They weren’t saying no; they didn’t hear me ask.

I was surprised, but maybe I shouldn’t have been. Everyone in the room agreed—these days, we skim and move on. Deborah DeBoer, from the North Shore-Barrington Association of Realtors, quoted her daughter: “People don’t do that reading thing anymore.”

Clearly you do do that reading thing. After all, here you are. But I wonder about the impact skim-and-move-on has for all of us who write about our work. I have some thoughts—and questions—about that.

But first, will you support this team headed for Senegal next month? We have two missions, both are worth your attention.

  • The health care group will train Community Health Workers in first aid, CPR and disease prevention so they can care for the people in their villages.
  • The business team is out to help women emerge from poverty by starting a micro-business. That means figuring out what they can offer, who will want it, and how to talk to potential customers.

The people we’ll be working with, many of them live in desperate circumstances on way less than what the UN calls “poverty level.” This is a huge opportunity for us—and you—to do some good in the world.

I’m not asking you to pull out your passport and jump on a plane with us. I am asking for help with the costs: transportation, medical supplies, and teaching materials. Any amount you can contribute is desperately needed and very welcome.

Now that you’ve seen this, it’s easy to donate to the cause. https://www.gofundme.com/teachum4senegal

And yes, you will have my deep gratitude. Along with the satisfaction of supporting some very important work.

Now, about your work.

You may write a newsletter or blog posts—“content creation” is all the rage when it comes to marketing. Maybe you create sales pages. Or corporate reports. You surely write emails or even old-fashioned snailmail.

Do you ever wonder if anybody’s reading it? It’s perplexing, trying to figure out how to make it more likely that they will.

Should you keep it short and snappy?

The women in that workshop were all about keeping the word count down. And they’re not alone; a lot of experts teach that approach, heavy on bullet points and numbered lists.

There’s even a name for that kind of bite-sized writing—a lot of people love “listicles.” You can sign up for any number of classes telling you how to get more readers with pithy, pointed writing.

But maybe people want more depth.

And as soon as you decide brevity is the key, you’ll run into the many content gurus suggesting that bigger is better when it comes to your writing. They argue that readers will stay with you if your writing is good, that they want more depth.

They point out clear evidence that people are more apt to share an article on social media if it’s over 1200 words. Those little listicles are much less likely to be spread around – you read it, maybe you even liked it, but it doesn’t seem worth passing on to your friends.

Plus, a longer piece gives you a bigger chance to demonstrate your expertise. Or to persuade readers to support your point of view.

As for me…

I shoot for somewhere around 800 words for an article. My whole newsletter is usually around that 12, 1300 word mark.

And, what did I just find out from my pals at the workshop? A bunch of people file it or delete it long before they take in all those words.

Your turn.

When you write, do you lean toward economy of words or do you go deeper and longer?

And when you read, do you dismiss those quickie pieces as not worth your attention? Or are you daunted by the prospect of wading through something heftier?

Getting and keeping your precious attention might have to do with something other than length. What makes you keep reading all the way to the end?

Post a comment below. And I’ll share what comes up so we can all learn something.