When it comes to writing long copy, there’s always the question of “will my readers take some time to read what I have to say?”. The answer is yes. But only if it is interesting and well-written.
Long copy is known as body copy or body text and can be used in websites, emails, newspapers, sales letters, blogs, and online channels. Think of copy as a conversation with someone you know. If you want to convince someone to take a certain action, you’ll want to catch their attention from the first thing you say until the very last word. To do so, you’ll need to be simple, straightforward, and concise. Surely, an element of persuasion is key. After you start applying this article’s tips and tricks, you’ll find an improvement in your copywriting.
When Is Long Copy Better than Short Copy?
Long copy is the way to go when headlines, sub-headlines, and taglines do not suffice. There has been a debate on whether long copy works or not, considering that people’s attention spans keep getting shorter. However, marketers who have been sticking to long copy believe that a long, engaging, and persuasive piece of content is the secret to conversions and sales. While short copy might work in TV advertisements and billboards, long sales letters, websites, or copy emails will provide all the information needed to make a sale.
There is no general rule of thumb; deciding on the length of your copy is based on the content. Regardless of the length, the content must always be persuasive, informative, and interesting. Brian Clark, the founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media, says long copy is used when you are selling a product or service that is:
It’s all about the reader’s ATTENTION! The headline, first line, and last line are the most important parts of the copy, so these need to be absolutely top-notch. The headline is what determines whether or not the content will be opened. The first line will either attract the reader and have him/her read the rest of the article or make the reader close it and never come back to it. The final line will impact the reader’s decision to take the desired action. For a body copy to be excellent, these three, along with the rest of the copy, must flow seamlessly into each other, as if connected by “an invisible thread.”
- The headline must grab the reader’s attention at first sight.
- The first line must be the most surprising, persuasive, or intriguing.
- The final line must conclude with a fact that completes the argument or call to action.
Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentence Structure
Do you know the feeling when you’re listening to a very good speaker or to your very knowledgeable professor, and your mind wanders off because you’re too bored and confused? The same thing can happen if you read a body copy with bad grammar, punctuation, or sentence structure. Here are some rules when it comes to these aspects:
- Grammar: adherence to grammar rules shows professionalism and creates credibility; however, some straying will do no harm. Appropriate grammar perversion can spice up things and sharpen a point.
- Using sentence fragments, one-sentence paragraphs, and beginning sentences with “but,” “and,” or “because” is acceptable in copywriting because it imitates real-life conversations. We break grammar rules all the time when we talk, from ending sentences with prepositions to using numerous sentence fragments.
- Punctuation: it adds richness and texture to writing, yet its overuse will create a disruption. Periods, commas, exclamation points, question marks, quotation marks, apostrophes, parentheses, colons, and semi-colons are good friends, yet their misuse or overuse takes away from the credibility of the writing. Just like with grammar, some appropriate perversion, such as the overuse of ellipses (…) or an extra exclamation point or two, is okay.
- Sentence structure: too many successive short sentences give a choppy tone, and too many successive long sentences can be boring or dull; just like in anything else, balance and moderation are key. Having a variety of sentence lengths and structures is preferable to keep things interesting.
Do’s and Don’t’s of Writing Long Copy
Content, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure greatly impact the quality of copy, yet there are some other aspects that can enhance or diminish the quality of your writing. It could be easier for you to “think of your job not as a writer of words, but an avoider of words.” Here are some important factors in writing and some tips for doing them best:
Divided short paragraphs that are inviting and easy to keep up with (a variety to maintain balance is good)
Big chunks of text as they bore and repel readers
In moderation because they help improve the flow of copy
Overdoing them because they can be irritating
The “list of three” as the number gives rhythm, balance, and closure
Lists of two are too few, and lists of four are too many
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A contrasting pair such as Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” or an alliteration such as “Veni Vidi Vici” as they are usually memorable
Overdoing them or not using them correctly may make you lose credibility
An engaging tone that matches the unique personality of the client, brand, or product
Straying away from a particular tone that you find as it will confuse the reader
Clichés, Puns, and Gerunds (“-ing” words)
Minimal use as they can throw off the readers
Using them inappropriately or excessively
Plain, simple, familiar, active, exciting, and powerful diction
Long, complicated, and dull diction
In general, a copy should be kept simple, balanced, and interesting. People do not read so much anymore; they’ll only skim your content at most. So, the copy has to be very good. Exceptional even. Remember that copywriting is like a conversation with someone you know, except you want to make sure they do the action you desire. Based on the context and the audience, you will appeal to emotions, logic, or credibility; a combination of all three is a good way to follow. Remember that the unusual can be of benefit to your writing as it spices things up and grabs the reader’s attention.