Saturday, December 28, 2019

TL;DR—Too Long; Didn't Read

by Cathy Fyock @CathyFyock

Too long; didn’t read, or TL;DR has become shorthand for writing which is overly verbose. Congruent with Strunk and White’s admonition to “omit needless words” and with Einstein’s statement, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler,” TLDR (or “Teal Deer”) has a long history of use on the Internet as shorthand for the need to summarize and abbreviate.

Aspiring authors often ask me how long their book should be, and the simplest answer is, “as long as it needs to be.” Readers today want accessible, practical books, and often praise the “one-flight” books that can be read and digested in one leg of a business trip. 

When asked this question about book length, I often think about a book I bought at the ATD conference where I spoke several years ago. I heard an excellent speaker, Andre Vermeulen, Ph.D., speak about the topic of his book, Tick Tock This Makes Your Brain Rock. I paid about $14 for this ultra-slim volume which encompasses about 50 pages and, since it is loaded with photographs and illustrations, probably only contains about 5000 words. Did I feel shortchanged? Not in the least! This book was the perfect summation of Vermeulen’s excellent presentation, and gave me precisely the information I was seeking when I bought the book.

On the other end of the spectrum, I think about an advance copy of a new book I was given at a conference, authored by a well-known speaker. I was asked to sign on to her advance promotion team, and I excitedly did so. I lugged the thick volume home, and received a call from her promotion team.

“What do you think of the new book?” the excited promotion team member asked me.

“To be honest, the book is still sitting here on my desk. I was really excited about receiving it, but it is so big and intimidating I can’t even begin to consider reading it.” The thought of lugging it on my next trip was equally daunting. To be honest, I never did read that book, and I probably never will.

The moral of this story: less is more.  As a rule of thumb, 100 – 150 pages, or 35,000 to 52,500 words is a typical length today, although there is no hard and fast rule. When I attended a recent conference program about book length, I’ve heard speakers talk about books that are now being re-released as two or three much shorter versions.

Some questions to ask yourself as you consider your book’s length:
Have I answered the my readers’ questions?
Have I given my readers enough information to be valuable?
Have I adequately covered the most important elements of my topic?

Perhaps the most important question is this one: Have I left my reader wanting more?

TL;DR—Too Long; Didn't Read - @CathyFyock on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Cathy Fyock is The Business Book Strategist, and works with professionals and thought leaders who want to write as a business development strategy. She is the author of nine books, including her most recent with coauthor Lois Creamer, The Speaker Author: Sell More Books and Book More Speeches. Since starting her business in 2014 she's helped more than 150 professionals become published authors. You can reach her at


  1. This applies to blog posts, too. If I receive a blog post that goes on and on and on...I tend to delete. :-) I like your question of "Have I left my reader wanting more?" Great message.

  2. Thanks Ms. Cathy; always enjoy learning new terms and ideas ma'am. Am guilty of verbose blog posts, but I like the guidance. The "take-away" for me is "as long as it needs to be." I think though I need to consider that from a reader perspective and not the writer perspective. God's blessings.

  3. Ditto to J.D.'s comments above. Thanks for the timely tip.

  4. Great article. As a publisher, I wish all my authors and prospective authors would read this before submitting!

  5. Thanks for the tips, Cathy. They're very helpful. And empowering. They remind me to keep the reader in mind and trust the message.