How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy

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How do you know when you’ve raved on for too long about a product or service? It just depends on what you’re trying to achieve and the audience. Here’s the only guide you’ll ever need for when to tone it down, and where more elaboration is needed.

The Litmus Test for Long or Short Copy

The product

A good rule of thumb to follow is the more complex, luxurious, technical or unknown the product is – the longer you need to make the copy. After all, what sort of information would you need to know, if you were going to part with a lot of money, for something you didn’t understand or have never heard of?

The purpose

What do you need to do with the copy?  If want to explain the benefits of a simple and well-known product, only a couple of sentences will suffice. If you’re wanting to compare your product to the competition and state why yours is superior – more words will be required.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Think of the end-goal for the copy, and work backwards from there

The Rules of Headlines

The rules are as bendy and flexible as Playdoe. When it comes to headlines, the more creative, pun-tastic and playful they are – the better. The 100 Greatest Advertisements by Julian Lewis Watkins is a classic study of the metrics are required for writing. Watkins believed that headlines are best abbreviated to eight words or less.  Although in recent years, this theory has been challenged.

UX guru Jakob Neilsen conducted a study about how readers’ eyes travel across webpages. This demonstrated that readers scan webpages in an F pattern. So the top of the page including the headline is crucial. As well as the first sub-heading, and any points of interest while scrolling down the page, including pull quotes and images.

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes what you think will work in copy just isn’t the case…and you need to go weirder…much weirder.

What we can take from this is that headlines are the primary pulling point for most readers. So it’s important to have rapid-fire, intriguing headlines. The eight words or less maxim may not apply. For some in-depth advice on creating effective headlines, check out Ten ways to write killer headlines.

When Less is More

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sassy is a good word to describe going OTT or a bit extra on copy…sometimes this is needed.

Well-Known Everyday Items

Convenience products like groceries or chain restaurants offerings don’t need lengthy descriptions or much persuasion to sell. The same goes for well-known brand name products. Such as over-the-counter medicines,    Keep the copy nice and short and it will be enough to get a sales conversion.

Let the Picture (or multimedia) tell the story

Imagine that you’re selling home décor or conversely – a debut single for a band. Less copy is necessary and instead there’s a need for either audio or visual input on the product page. Think of the functionality or suitability of the item, does this need to be explained? If it doesn’t then don’t bother!

How to Judge When to Use Long or Short Copy
Sometimes words can be cheap and an illustration or a photo can tell the story better…embrace those opportunities.

Tried and Tested products

This is the cousin to every-day budget items. Tried and tested products that work the way people expect them to work, don’t require much selling or additional words. Instead what they do require is a compelling and competitive price point, because well-known items are more likely to prompt people to shop around for the best price.

When More is More

Big Ticket Luxury Items

People will need more of a reason to part with large sums of money for big ticket items. There needs to be comprehensive selling points that work in association with strong branding imagery and advertising.

Products That Require a ‘Try Before You Buy’ Principle

 This includes cosmetics, skin care, shoes, clothes, hats, sunglasses, perfume and so on.

Untested items

Any items that haven’t been tried and tested on the market before, or that are unfamiliar to the chosen audience, deserve a much longer and in-depth write up, about the benefits over existing products.

Specialty or Bespoke items

These are the items that people never knew that they needed or wanted until it came along. They fulfill a need and make life easier in some way. However they need to be explained. The same goes for customised or bespoke items. These need to be explained because they have many unique variables and are costed higher than other products.

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