What's the difference between flash fiction and a short short story?

Both “flash fiction” and “short short story” refer to a very short work of fiction. They are often used interchangeably. There are other labels for this kind of story, including sudden fiction, micro fiction and postcard fiction. The length of the very short story is variable. Some editors set a word limit appropriate to their needs and goals. Vestal Review looks for stories that are 500 words or less while Glimmer Train defines a very short fiction as one that doesn’t exceed 3000 words. The most common range for a very short story tends to fall between 750 and 1500 words.

Some might argue that a certain label does carry more specific length requirements. Postcard fiction, for instance, should fit on the back of a postcard. But even this is hazy. Does this mean the dinky little 3.5 by 5 inch discount postcard I picked up at an infrequently visited cheese shop in rural Wisconsin or the larger 6 by 4.5 inch ones advertisers like to use to fill my mailbox? What about big loopy script versus scaled down type?

So, what’s a writer to do? Get back to basics. Write the stories that matter to you with the word count they demand—no more and no less. Then, figure out where they might fit. And perhaps scour some journal submission guidelines and give yourself a challenge. What happens when you set out to write a complete story in under 300 words?