Copywriting Tip: Copy Length Depends on Three Factors

Copywriting tip: Long copy or short copyLong copy, short copy? It’s a question that’s been asked over and over.

“No one has time to read long copy.” That’s the comment veteran copywriter John Caples heard from his clients. And, Caples agreed with the caveat that “no one wants to read long, boring copy, printed in dense small type.”

In Breakthrough Advertising, when writing about copy length, my mentor Eugene Schwartz (another veteran copywriter) said the length of your ad depends on three factors. In his chapter titled, “Inside Your Prospect’s Mind,” Gene outlined the following three factors:

1. Desire: How much copy do you need to build your prospect’s desire for your product/service, not to mention all that your product can do for him/her? “Your first task . . . is to make your prospect want. To sharpen his desire. To picture every moment of its fulfillment.”

2. Indentifications: “These are the roles your prospects wants to play in life, and the personality traits he wants your product to help him build or project,” Gene wrote.

Gene gives the example of weight loss. Not only do people want to lose weight to become thin, but to strengthen their self esteem, feel attractive and radiant.

Your task is to put them [prospects] directly behind your product.” To have him identify with the “prestigious and select group he joins when he becomes a user of that product.”

3. Beliefs: Everyone has his/her belief system and your copy needs to pass their muster. If your message resonates with your prospects and fits in with their beliefs, they’ll continue reading. “You start with these beliefs as a base,” said Gene.

“You build up from them by using his [your prospect] kind of logic, not your own, to prove that your product satisfies his desire—to prove that your product works—to prove that his kind of people rely on your product—to prove that no other product satisfies his needs as well.”

“There you have them. Desires . . . Identifications . . . Beliefs. Each of them composed of equal parts of emotion and thought. The three dimensions of your prospect’s mind—the raw materials with which you will work,” concluded Gene.

John Caples encouraged the use of long copy. In his book Tested Advertising Methods, he wrote, “Research shows that the more information you give people about a product, the greater the response you will receive . . . Give plenty of facts and benefits to convince people to take you up on your offer. Make it easy for them to make the decision you want.”

Last, but not least, in support of long copy, direct marketer Craig Simpson tells a story in his book, The Advertising Solution, about a client of his who sent out a 36-page sales letter, tested it against an edited 24-page version and the 36-pager had double the response rate!

So next time you hear someone say “no one wants to read long copy.” Think twice.

Sure, folks scan copy. They look at headlines, bullet points, and subheads. However, when your message resonates with your prospects, pushes their buttons, makes them think “this person/company understands me,” then your copy will hold their attention long enough for them to read what you (or your copywriter) wrote.

What are your thoughts about copy length? Have you tested long against short? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below because I’d love to hear from you. Thanks a million and here’s to your sweet success.

Debra Jason

Marketing & writing with heart, not hype at at The Write Direction
A recipient of the “Creative Person of the Year” award, Debra educates and empowers creative solopreneurs and enthusiastic business owners to create a lifestyle business that provides them with the flexibility, fun and freedom to do what they love. She also inspires you to communicate your marketing message in a way that captivates and converts your prospects into loyal, raving fans - even if you have been struggling with how to transform your ideas into words in the past.


  1. I agree with you completely Debra. I suspect that the push for short pages/less content/copy grew out of web design and web development. The book “Letting Go of the Words” is a perfect example of this. Web designers and developers wanted to reduce, reduce, reduce when it came to content on a website so that the websites were easier to use, people “started reading less” (which I’m still not convinced of), supposedly because of our decreased attention spans and the information overload of the Internet Age, and this started to bleed into sales copy.

    I believe that, as you mentioned, people still read, just not the same way they once did—they scan, some of them, but many of them still read every word. Copy is not synonymous with content, and content is not synonymous with techcomm on a website—yes, your buttons and menus and instructions and such should probably be slashed to ribbons if they can be replaced with excellent UX, but that’s only so that the content or copy you want the prospect to focus on can become just that—the focus.

    And, when you’ve got a great thing to sell (or you’ve written something compelling), more is often better. I really believe that a good portion of the population likes to dive into the details, and that requires more writing.

    Great post and great tips!

    • Thanks Adam. I think folks have been “scanners” for a long time. If the headline, subheads, bullet points, grab their attention and resonate with them, they’ll continue to read the details. If your content explores the problems your readers are facing and then offers a solution, you’ll have provided them with compelling content that translates into them taking action.
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