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Copywriting - How Long Should Your Copy Be?

By Michelle Quintana

You have an email, direct mail letter, website, product description or other marketing piece to write. How much copy is required to do the job? One paragraph? Five? Twenty?

Most writers struggle with that question. And for good reason. There's a lot of misinformation out there. One so-called expert claims that all marketing copy should be long and involved. Another insists that short and concise works best these days.

What's the answer?

That depends on a number of specific factors.

Here are eight questions to ask that will help you determine how long your copy should be, whether you're writing for print or online.

1. Is it a standard format?

The marketing piece may have a standard format that influences how much copy you have to work with. For example, a press release is often no more than a page or two. So the word count would fall somewhere between 400 and 1000.

2. Is the size and⁄or layout carved in stone?

Sometimes you don't have much of a choice. The size, shape, and even the basic layout of the piece have already been established. Your job is to write copy that fits. This isn't ideal. But it happens.

3. What action are you asking the reader to take?

If the purpose of the marketing piece is to generate a lead -- by persuading the prospect to request a free white paper, for example -- then you may not need much copy. However, if you're asking for an order, it's going to take a lot more words to convince the reader to pull out her credit card!

4. How emotionally driven is the buying decision?

How much of the buying decision is emotional rather than practical?

Purchasing a lawn mower is a practical decision for most people, usually requiring just a persuasive explanation of the features and benefits. An exotic vacation, however, is highly emotional -- with dreams of fun and family adventure at stake -- and would therefore require longer, more descriptive copy.

5. How dependent is the prospect on the copy?

How much is the prospect dependent on your copy to get all the facts and information she needs to make a purchasing decision?

If you want to motivate someone to order a $950 software program with your website, you may need several pages to make a convincing argument. However, if the prospect is buying a new fridge, he'll get a lot of the information at the store by talking with the salesperson.

6. How expensive is the product or service?

The rule of thumb is: The bigger the price tag, the longer the copy.

If you are promoting a one-day seminar for $99, you may be able to get away with a short web page describing the event. But you'll need a lot more copy to convince someone to invest in a $3,500 weekend boot camp.

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