One answer to the long or short copy debate

Should your sales letter be long or short? Is it true that the more you tell the more you sell? Or are people too busy to bother with long letters?

The answer may surprise you. It arises out of a significant shift in our reading habits, a shift that makes the appearance of a letter (or blog, article or brochure) a significant element.

I realised it myself this week, when I found myself reading a number of blogs in a hurry.

I read them because they were discussions on topics that interested me, and had attracted quite a few comments from well-informed people. However, I struggled with them.

The reason I found them hard going was this: the paragraphs were too long.

And there were too many paragraphs.

In Ecademy blogs, for example, the text is set in 10 point (I think), with a line length of about 110 characters. That’s hard to skim read, and you have to move your head as you read each line. Too much work.

Easy on the eye

In contrast, some online sales letters from the USA run to many pages, but the paragraphs usually consist of single sentences and are almost NEVER more than four lines long. The line length is short too.

Some paragraphs are one-liners like this.

They also have subheads like the one above, to segment the subject matter and break up the grey text.

Why that works

We all suffer from Attention Deficit. It may not be a Disorder (yet!) but it gets in the way when we are at work.

Every day, we are all assailed by huge numbers of messages and calls for our attention: radio, TV, emails, newspapers, magazines, advertisements, posters, tannoy announcements, traffic, phone calls, conversations, meetings …

We cannot cope with more than one thing at a time, so we have developed the ability to switch off. In fact, it’s a reflex that kicks in very quickly.

So what’s the answer?

The answer is to deliver your information in small bites. Like this blog. Make it attractive to the eye and it will be easy for the reader take in each new idea or piece of information. It will increase your chances of being read all the way down the page. And page after page.