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Reader Q&A: Why Is It So Difficult to Keep It Short? 22 March 2007

Filed under: Copywriting,Correct English Usage,Small Business — worddocdooley @ 10:24am

This was the question put to me by Sue Davis, of Design Advantage, subscriber of MediaMinister’s Communiqué for Success!

Well, Sue, when I worked on national newspapers and magazines (first as a journalist, and then as an editor/sub-editor), the one thing that I found the most difficult was to cut overlong copy to fit the page layout.

It was difficult for two main reasons:

1. Often, I had to cut text by half, so I was aware that I needed to preserve the overall gist of the piece so that it would be understood by the its target audience (the readers!).

2. There would naturally be elements such as whole paragraphs, some quotes, facts and so on that had to go. Again, you didn’t want to reduce the impact of the piece, so this could be tricky.

In general, it took me at least twice as long to cut a long piece of copy than it was to write a story (news speak for an article or news) from scratch…

OK, I’m going off track slightly. 😉

I think Mark Twain said it best: “If I would have had more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.

The point I’m making is that it generally takes a lot more skill and time to write short copy than long copy, or to cut to size overlong copy. This is chiefly because you have to pay extra attention to word usage and crafting, as well as the scope and flow or ‘feel’ of the piece. You need to end up with an item of text that tells the whole picture and doesn’t leave your readers with unanswered questions

Your readers, of course, will never know just how much time and effort went into the shorter item, because they’re looking for an easy read that is hopefully entertaining or interesting in some way. 😉

Longer copy is by and large not only easier to write (unless you’re writing a 50-page direct mail piece), but it also tends to outsell shorter pieces. See the post entitled “Does Long Copy Sell More?” – https://marketingmoment.wordpress.com/2007/01/26/does-long-copy-sell-more/

Hope that helps, Sue. But feel free to ask me any more questions on copywriting, marketing, editing or anything related to your business.

COPYRIGHT © 2007, T Dooley

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