quick word count visual reference for writers and designers

I realize this isn’t exactly a thing of beauty, but I thought it might save somebody out there some heartache, so I give you a quick visual reference for estimated word counts in 8.5×11″ publications. Basically, the more words you put on there, the less space is left for the beautiful photo and other jazzy stuff, and the sadder your layout will look.

If you are a writer or if you need to communicate with a writer about how long a story should be for an 8.5×11 page, here is a little resource for you. (In case it’s not obvious, the gray boxes showing word count represent the space left for photos and other flair.)

Note that this example is a very tight, un-cool layout. It’s the bare minimum. So estimate on the low side of the word count if you want more space for headlines, pull-quotes and fancy stuff.

In a magazine, you can always jump a story to a back page to gain flexibility for pretty images and text treatments up front, but in newsletters and catalogs, there tends to be less flexibility. Whether you’re writing promotional text or a news story, keeping it on the shorter side improves your chance of being read (and ultimately communicating/persuading) since people get sucked in by photos, pull-quotes, oversized intro paragraphs and captions before they dive into body copy.

As you can see, if you have one page to fill and you send a designer a gorgeous photo and a 700 word story with a 100 word sidebar, what you will get in return is a page that looks disheartening at best. (Or maybe you will get an attractive layout and a polite explanation that the designer has only placed half of the text you sent.)

Here’s to the 400-word story! I hope that this is useful to somebody out there, and that it prevents a designer somewhere from having to resort to eating rage pretzels.

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