When writing content for Q&A sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers, one common question is “How many words should my answer be?” The optimal word count can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and the level of detail expected by readers. In general, a good rule of thumb is to provide enough words to thoroughly answer the question without unnecessary fluff or repetition. Most Q&A experts recommend aiming for answers between 400-1000 words for most topics.
Why Word Count Matters
On Q&A sites, the length of an answer impacts how useful and authoritative it appears. Excessively short answers may seem lazy or lacking in depth, while extremely long answers can be off-putting to readers. Moderators may also reject answers far outside the normal word count range. Other factors influence ideal word count as well:
|Factor||Impact on Word Count|
|Complexity of topic||More complex topics require more explanation and examples, increasing word count.|
|Amount of background needed||Topics that require more background context need additional words to establish that foundation.|
|Question specificity||Narrow questions allow for shorter, more focused answers compared to broad questions.|
|Reader expectations||Some topics demand lengthy detail to satisfy readers’ informational needs.|
Clearly there is no universal ideal, but being mindful of these dynamics helps target an appropriate word count.
Recommended Length by Question Type
While word count depends on the particular question, some general guidelines apply for common Q&A topics:
Fact-based questions: These call for objective, factual responses that can often be answered in 400-600 words. For example:
– What year was Disneyland opened?
– Who invented the light bulb?
– How many ounces are in a pound?
Overview questions: Asking for a general overview of a broad topic typically requires 800-1,000 words or more. For instance:
– Provide an overview of World War 2.
– Summarize the history of space exploration.
– Give an overview of machine learning technology.
“How-to” questions: Answering practical, procedural questions like “How do I change a tire?” or “How can I get a passport?” usually needs 500-800 words to provide adequate step-by-step instructions.
Open-ended discussion questions: These broad, subjective questions can produce extremely long answers spanning thousands of words. However, most Q&A sites recommend keeping responses focused at 500-1000 words. Example open-ended questions:
– What is your opinion on the health care system?
– Is college tuition too expensive?
– What factors contribute most to success?
Product recommendation questions: When asked for recommendations on a product, aim for 400-700 words comparing a few top choices and providing pros/cons for each. For instance:
– What is the best smartphone for seniors?
– What laptop has the best battery life?
– Which ski resorts are good for families?
Attributes of Quality Answers
Regardless of word count, the highest-voted answers on Q&A sites share certain attributes:
– Provide accurate, verified information
– Are written clearly and coherently
– Are relevant and fully respond to the question
– Have sufficient but not excessive detail
– Include examples, personal anecdotes, or research as applicable
– Maintain a neutral, objective tone
– Demonstrate expertise and critical thinking
– Cite sources if appropriate
– Are scannable with key points highlighted
Striking the right balance of comprehensive information with brevity and focus is an art. The optimal word range provides enough substance without superfluous content that distracts from the core answer.
Formatting to Enhance Readability
Leveraging formatting can make long-form Q&A responses easier to digest. Strategies include:
– Breaking text into shorter paragraphs of 3-5 sentences.
– Using bulleted or numbered lists for steps in a process or key takeaways.
– Embedding relevant images, graphs, or charts to supplement text.
– Bolding or highlighting key terms.
– Using descriptive headers and subheaders.
– Inserting short blockquote citations from experts or references.
– Adding HTML table for side-by-side comparisons of complex data.
These tactics help create visual hierarchy, enabling readers to scan and comprehend detailed answers more readily.
Writing Tips for Optimal Word Count
Here are some useful tips for hitting the right word count range for a question:
– Carefully read the question for specificity – is it broad or narrow in scope?
– Research the topic fully to determine how much background and detail is needed.
– Avoid extraneous examples and tangential points.
– Be concise – cut unnecessary words/phrases.
– Use formatting like bullets and headers to allow trimmed text without losing key ideas.
– Write out the full answer, then edit down if too wordy by consolidating concepts.
– Seek trusted second opinions – does it provide sufficient but not excessive detail?
– Review platform guidelines for ideal word counts on different question types.
– When in doubt, err on the side of writing too much vs. too little.
With practice, you can learn to intuitively target the optimal word range that provides informative value without overloading readers.
While no definitive rules dictate the perfect word count, the best Q&A answers provide the ideal amount of detail and explanation the specific question merits. Very short or very long posts often get passed over in favor of those in the 400-1000 word sweet spot that offer sufficient but succinct information. Leveraging formatting, tight writing, and research can help produce content within these parameters that fully yet concisely answers the question. The hallmark of useful Q&A responses is quality information and value to readers – not sheer length. With experience writing varying question types, finding the right balance becomes easier over time.