The Word Limit
June 1, 2009 § Leave a comment
Recently, I wrote myself a series of guiding principles, a standard with which I uphold my writing to, called my “Reviewer Manifesto“. Part of this manifesto – one of the most important parts, no less – is my promise to keep all my reviews down to 1000 words or less. With the last couple of reviews I have been finding myself occasionally dipping my toe in the water outside of this restriction, and to stop myself looking like a total hypocrite, I will now try and justify my position on this.
I believe in the 1000 word limit. I think it’s good because it gives enough space for the reader to get a general idea about a product and my verdict of it, while it also keeps me in check, stops me from rambling, and forces me into being more succinct and thrifty with my words. Specifically with video game reviews, however, sometimes certain games do require a higher level of explanation to properly get across what they’re all about. As a result, my reviews of games tend to be much higher in terms of word count than my movie reviews. I generally enjoy writing these “explanation” parts of reviews as much as I enjoy writing movie synopses (i.e. not very much) but they are, nonetheless, necessary to a decent review, because you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth, the good with the bad, [and insert other petty idioms here], etc. (Of course, the level of explanation to be offered is a matter of style and taste. I try to keep it as brief as possible and let screenshots and video do the rest of the talking.)
When I wrote the 1000 word limit rule, it was to be a stringently adhered to guideline which, really, shouldn’t be bent. But I am bending it now, and I have to ask myself, “Where does the line stop?” if I am to move back the limit to 1100 words, 1400 words, 2000 words, ad infinitum. What harm is an extra fifty words, eh?
Ultimately, though, all you have is my word. Sometimes the word limit will go over 1000 (I had that feeling when I set it) but if it does, it can only be by a small amount – and by that I mean 100 words on the plus side. I’m sure that with some of these reviews I probably could pare it down to 1000 words, but I’m not going to because, frankly, it will take too long and I can’t be bothered. I have a personal sense of pride about my work, but even I’m not going to waste time trying to cram a review into a 1000 word-shaped box when I could be spending that time playing the next game up for review.