Articles – the Long and Short of it

Is a short article more interesting than a long one? That’s a lot like asking if one paragraph is more interesting than ten. I’ve spent a large part of my life distilling long briefs and ramblings into short persuasive prose. 100 words about a soap. 300 about a summer holiday package. 150 about the marvellous tip of a ball point pen. So, I am continually fascinated by those who work on the long form – 3000, 4000 words Faking it – by Michael Lewis in the New York Times. Try this one – Love and Lies by Michael Pollan – it completely changed my opinion about plants. Or Blowing Up by Malcolm Gladwell. It provided the thinking into investing against the market and made Nassim Taleb famous during the collapse of 2008

Short articles are like executive summaries. They pique your interest and let you wander through vast troves of analysis and insight. There aren’t too many people who can hold your interest beyond a certain length. So how do these masters do it? They write prose operas as opposed to staccato pop. They draw you in through a combination of factual and anecdotal brilliance. They work with words the same way as a painter works with colours. Or a surgeon with a scalpel. Or even a composer with music notes. They force you to consider options that your mind resists – and then melt all the opposition.

If you are looking for long form gems, there are several places. The old faithfuls – Arts &Letters Daily. Or the incisive articles at Rolling Stone. Instead of visual delights, settle down with verbal ones and you will discover that it is every bit as fulfilling as pictures – because it is your imagination that fills in the blanks.