Write economically — why shorter is better.


Copywriting isn’t a literary contest.

It’s about turning a browser into a buyer as quickly as possible. Every word counts. You must open strongly and your headline should do most of the work, with body copy simply reinforcing the decision to buy.

There is no formula for how long the perfect piece of copy should be.

The only rule is that is should be as long as it needs to be.

Readers want to be enthralled and they want it to happen quickly. Wading through endless copy to reach a point is something that the majority won’t do. Grab them, shake them, and then make them want to buy, or at the very least, read on.

Create problems and solve them

Simplicity is key. Focus on the benefits, not the features. The benefits insert your product or service into the lives of consumers. Speak plainly and take the complex features of your product and create simple benefits.

Possibly the best example of effective, short copywriting is Apple’s “Think Different”. In two words they communicate their unique perspective and their unique products, they solve the problem of being stuck in a bland life, the create an image that is aspirational, with a range of products that you need in your life. It’s remarkable how many ways one simple phrase can be interpreted, which is why it is so effective.

Another is Nike’s “Just Do It”. Put your fear and doubt, your excuses and procrastination away, and just do it. This slogan hasn’t changed in more than 25 years, which shows that timelessness is still an important quality to strive for, despite how far technology goes or what is in vogue.

Tips for writing concisely and effectively

  • Edit edit and edit some more
    In On Writing, Stephen King quotes a newspaper editor he worked for  “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story…. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” This is equally applicable of sales writing. Your job is to paint the picture, not show the customer every stroke of the brush.
  • Aim for a word count
    Give yourself a limited number of words and be relentless and merciless. Whittle down your sentences to the bare essentials. Turn 20 words into 10, and 10 into 5. It sounds arbitrary, but the fewer words you make a customer read, the faster they end at the crucial decision moment. Sweep them along in your enthusiasm and their objections will fall by the wayside. Urgency is key to conversion.
  • Be direct
    Get to the point quickly. Don’t be overly wordy and attempt to use longer words where short ones will do. Favour short, punchy sentences, however don’t become monotonous. Gary Provost put it best:

“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

Write economically — why shorter is better.
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