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New Writers, Short Form Writing Is Clickbait

  • 5 min read

It’s incomplete and confusing. True or false?

There has been a lot of discussion about short form lately.

I was tagged in several articles by new writers.

These writers said my pieces inspired them to write short form and now… they are frustrated.

Short form feels incomplete, confusing — or worse, it’s clickbait.

Wait, what?

Meghan Markle couldn’t believe it either.

Here’s the shocking story and my statement about it.

To be honest, I’m just tired of people whining when they’re the ones who are misinformed.

I enjoy the playfulness and spontaneity of short form writing

What’s short form?

  • Shortform is any story under 150 words.
  • It provides nuggets of information.
  • Comic artists, as well as poets, use it.
  • Busy writing moms (like me) use it to keep the hula hoop spinning.
  • Short form = fun!
  • I enjoy the playfulness and spontaneity of short form writing.

Here’s the article that inspired most of the new writers that reached out to me:

Sorry, but short form isn’t clickbait!

New writer Alvin T. shared in How I Miserably Discovered That Short-Form Can Work against New Writers that he was called out for writing clickbait.

After putting effort into crafting the headline, spending hours pondering how to arrange and optimize the text within 150 words while keeping the message properly delivered — I felt rejected.

How dare you call it clickbait?! Alvin T.

Okay, Alvin. I feel you.

As a new writer, this was a real knife-to-the-heart moment.

After taking a moment to calm down, I realized that readers are always right, so decided to ask him what he had to say.

After all, our readers are our “customers.” Alvin T.

Yes, we aren’t the main character of our story. It’s the reader.

Alvin even revised his piece — headline, and parts of the text — for this whining reader.

I read Alvin’s article while I was pushing the stroller along the beach.

Little snowflakes were dancing in the cold air. I looked up at the blue sky and said to myself:

Short form writing is my true love and I will not allow it to be dragged through the mud and called clickbait.

Here’s my statement, new writers.

Clickbait Isn’t The Problem. It’s You!

I’m tired of people whining when they’re the ones who are misinformed. Most people confuse headlines and clickbait.

Clickbait is only clickbait if it doesn’t follow through on the promise in the title.

Being controversial or writing hyperbolic headlines isn’t clickbait.

It’s creative. It’s allowed. It’s part of our craft as writers.

What do you want? Boring headlines?

Moreover, if you write a short form piece of 150 words or less it’s common sense that it’s not an eight-minute read illuminating all aspects of the issue or topic you’re referring to.

Oftentimes it’s a teaser or it summarizes the main points of a long form article. That’s the beauty of short-form writing.

People who have the time to read more details, can click on the long form article and give it a read.

99% of writing online is about the headline

The highest-paid people in the writing industry are those who write headlines. Because headlines sell the newspaper or magazine.

Without those creative copywriters, they fail.

BuzzFeed, for instance, has an internal rule. Every writer must write 30 versions of a headline in order to find the right one.

99% of writing online is about the headline.

Every day we are doing our best to make people click on our headlines on Medium, Vocal, NewsBreak, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on.

The headline is all we have. Our readers look at it for a millisecond and decide whether to click on it or not.

We are all competing for attention. It gets harder every day. Attention is the modern currency.

A good headline is creative. It grabs you. It invites you to read it.

3 W-question concept

I learned from (Nicolas) Cole that your headline must answer the 3 W-questions.

In every headline, there are three different elements you should be specific about.

1. WHAT is your story about?

2. WHO is it for?

3. WHY should I read your story?

You can draw a line down the middle, and call WHAT and WHO part one, and WHY, part two.


The gap between them is called the Curiosity or Information Gap.

There’s tension. You want to learn more.

You want to click on this headline.

Final Takeaways

Background photo created by fanjianhua —

Here’s my original comment on Alvin’s article:

- I once wrote a short form piece where I cited a humor writer. When he saw it, he asked me to change it.
Why? Because the curiosity gap was missing. The climax. 
The climax = results, outcome, aha moment.

Do you know Mark Manson (Bestellsing author of The subtle Art of giving a f*ck?). What would he say? Dont give a f*ck. Climb the summit and move on.

Yes, this also happens when you write long form articles. People scan your text and don’t get the info they wanted.
A short form article can be a TEASER. It doesn’t have to be a news itself. 

It’s a great lesson though.
But please don’t feel discouraged.

© Kristina God

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