Copywriters, direct marketing agencies, and clients have shown, over and over again, that long copy out pulls short. So why am I suggesting you keep it short? Well, this idea isn’t so much about the overall length of your copy as its conciseness.
If you can make a point in eight words, don’t use 15. If you can make your point in three words, why use eight? A willingness to be ruthless when editing your copy will tighten it up like a racing yacht’s rigging, yielding every last drop of performance.
From Winston Churchill
I used this quote in my first book, Write to Sell, so my apologies if you’ve seen it before. But it bears repeating (and rereading) because of its amazing power.
Churchill wrote this telegram on August 10, 1942 to General Alexander, Commander in Chief in the Middle East:
Your prime and main duty will be to take or destroy at the earliest opportunity the German-Italian army commanded by Field Marshal Rommel together with all its supplies and establishments in Egypt and Libya.
Wow! In just 35 words, he packed in an entire campaign, from target to objectives and timescale.
When you sit down to write your next piece of copy, remember this. You may be passionate about the product you’re selling—either because you invented it, you’re trading it, you manufacture it, or you supply it personally. But your reader probably isn’t. Blathering on about it won’t bring the sale any closer.
Make sure you use tight, muscular language where every word counts. Don’t say it’s “27 meters in length,” say it’s “27 meters long.” Don’t say, “We are located in the city of Birmingham.” Say, “We’re in Birmingham.”
If you end up cutting your first draft by 30 percent, fi ne. You now have all that free space to write more benefits-laden copy. Or, you can decide you’ve said all you need to make the sale, and your reader has to do less work before making their buying decision.
- Don’t worry about being concise when you’re writing your first draft. Instead, concentrate on telling the reader a compelling story about your product and why they should buy it. Leave the editing until your second draft.
- Watch for empty adjectives, clichés, waffle, repetition, redundancy, and, in particular, writing that pleases you but leaves the reader cold.