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The Long Copy Versus Short Copy Faceoff

Hi there,

I’ve missed you! If you were wondering where your Copywriting TNT subscription was last week, well we’ve changed our production schedule to every OTHER WEEK…until Labor Day in September.

Got a lot of support around my new gluten-free diet. I know it’s right for my system to embrace it but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of a grieving process for some of my old favorites like pizza and pasta.

Sure there are gluten-free versions but without a kitchen it’s a little challenging right now. The good news is the kitchen should be done (or at least partially functional) by the time you get your next Copywriting TNT ezine! And I am planning to get back into cooking! (Since my man is an exceptional chef, I haven’t ventured into the kitchen much for the past 20-some-odd years but I’m ready!)

Meanwhile there are a lot of changes out there on the Internet. And while the true answer is to always TEST your own market, I still hear the ongoing debate about long copy versus short copy. So I pulled together some of the latest information on what’s working and what’s not regarding your tarket’s behavior when it comes to your copy.

You are free to make up your own mind. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below or on my Facebook page –

Make it a magical week!





P.S. To all my U.S. friends – enjoy our Independence Day on July 4th!

The Long Copy Versus Short Copy Face-Off

By Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero, Expert Copywriting Strategist

It wasn’t supposed to happen. But it usually does. Regular Joes want to know why copywriters write all that damn copy that “nobody reads”. After I spoke at a record-breaking National Speakers Association chapter in Denver, somehow we got off on the age-old long copy versus short copy debate. They were incredulous – unable to believe long copy works. I have heard it referred to as “digital vomit”. Well that just makes me mad. So okay. You asked for it. In this corner we have the reigning champ “long copy”. And in this corner we have the apparent crowd favorite “short copy”. (Feel free to insert a high-pitched whine as you read each objection.)

Objection Number One:

It’s Dern TOO Long!

The funny thing is when I got my very FIRST long copywriting assignment I secretly snickered too. I didn’t see any reason for it to go on and on for pages. (Of course I didn’t know anything about marketing at the time either – I just knew what I didn’t like.) But, hey, if that’s what the client wanted, I would deliver. So I had to learn the style and cadence of long copy. I studied it extensively. I read whatever I could get my hands on by the masters. I read other people’s long copy. I collected my junk mail. In the end I turned out a 15 page letter that hit every objection and flowed like the letters I had studied. That letter launched my copywriting career. Even though I was a novice at the time, my letter actually out-pulled every copywriting guru my client had previously hired. If fact, that letter made him A LOT of money…and allowed me to finally leave my corporate job and work from home where I was able to raise my two young sons!

Objection Number Two:

It Won’t Keep My Interest!

As Mike Fortin postulates, “People object to reading copy because: a) they are not targeted and b) the copy is boring. Length is the excuse because it’s a common currency. Boring is subjective. Long is objective. When copy starts to bore you, you naturally are inclined to say it’s too long. It’s too long because of the fact that it started to drag, causing the reader to lose interest.” And Dan Kennedy weighs in, “The person who says ‘I would never read all that copy’ makes the mistake of thinking they are the customer. And they’re not. We are never our own customers. There’s a thing in copywriting I teach called ‘message-to-market match’. It is this: when your message is matched to a target market that has a high level of interest in it, not only does responsiveness go up but readership goes up, too. The whole issue of interest goes up. The truth about long copy is that, first of all, there’s abundant, legitimate, statistical research, that’s split-testing research, to indicate that virtually without exception, long copy outperforms short copy. There’s some significant research has been done that indicate that readership falls off dramatically at 300 words but does not again drop off until 3,000 words.”

Objection Number Three:

It Should Be Broken Up Over Several Pages!

Funny enough clicking around through several pages is a BIG TURN OFF to Internet users. In fact a web usability study from User Interface Engineering ( noted people prefer longer copy on fewer pages! That’s right. Users would prefer to scroll down one long page versus hopping around to find their information. They write:

1. “Our research shows that fewer, longer pages may be the best approach for users. In the trade-off between hiding content below the fold or spreading it across several pages, users have greater success when the content is on a single page.”

2. “Increasing the levels of information, similar to adding sections to an outline, also seemed to help users.”

3. “Users may tell us they hate scrolling, but their actions show something else. Most users readily scrolled through pages, usually without comment.” But most of all I agree with Mike Fortin’s assessment of keeping copy together on one page – It’s all MENTAL! He writes, “Clicking to another page causes what psychologists call ‘cognitive dissonance.’ (Also known as ‘buyer’s remorse’ or having ‘2nd thoughts.’) The idea is that, by clicking to another page while one is engaged in the reading process of sales copy forces readers to think twice, as it causes a brief, mental dissassociation or distraction, which interrupts the flow, momentum and intensity of the sales pitch.” We have short attention spans. So asking a prospect to take even a split second to click to another page may be all it takes for him/her to shift gears and be gone forever. The goal is to keep your prospect in a sort of trance of subtle persuasion. Which is why the copy must also be INTERESTING. As Gary Halbert says, “Copy can never be too long. Only too boring!”

Objection Number Four:

A Single Column of Long Copy Is So 20th Century!

Why restrict yourself when today’s website could actually look like a digital version of a glossy magazine or a newspaper? (In fact, take a gander at many a corporate site and you’ll recognize the touch of “high tech graphic artistry” with little regard to salesmanship.) Well, according to the Poytner Institute’s Eyetrack Study held each year,, there are a few problems with steering away from the traditional single column. “Eyetrack III results showed that the standard one-column format performed better in terms of number of eye fixations — in other words, people viewed more. However, bear in mind that habit may have affected this outcome. Since most people are accustomed to one-column Web articles, the surprise of seeing three-column type might have affected their eye behavior. What about photos on article pages? It might surprise you that our test subjects typically looked at text elements before their eyes landed on an accompanying photo, just like on homepages. As noted earlier, the reverse behavior (photos first) occurred in previous print eyetracking studies”

Objection Number Five:

I NEVER Read Long Copy!

Say what you will but the outcomes beg to differ. Marketing Experiments has built their business on testing “every conceivable marketing method on the Internet”. In general, long copy offers the following advantages:

1. Your visitors will have most of their questions answered and will have less anxiety about ordering from you.

2. Long copy can reduce customer service by qualifying your customers to a greater degree.

3. Long copy with bolded or emphasized points can allow some of your visitors to skim, while others more interested in specifics can find all the information they want. In this sense, long copy gives visitors more options.

4. Long (and interesting) keyword-rich copy often performs well in natural search engines. Even more… The long vs. short debate often overlooks the most important factor when it comes to website copy: quality. High-quality short copy will outperform poorly written long copy every time. The best possible copy should be developed and tested before you even begin to worry about the long vs. short debate. And finally… Copy should be long enough to do its job effectively, and not a word longer. Long copy for the sake of long copy is not to your benefit. Always keep in mind the primary goal of your website’s copy (to sell your product or service, to solicit subscriptions, etc.). So there you have the long copy story from independent sources. You can continue to fight it, but the truth is LONG COPY WORKS. If it didn’t it would not be used to the degree it is. 

ABOUT LORRIE: Award-winning marketer, world-renowned copywriter and creator of “The She Factor”, Lorrie Morgan-Ferrero of Red Hot Copy has a reputation as the top female copywriter in the info-marketing industry. Lorrie is dedicated to teaching the world it is possible to shift from the hype-filled sales to a more modern version …marketing written with authenticity, trust, and rapport.

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One Response to The Long Copy Versus Short Copy Faceoff

  1. Gerrie June 26, 2013 at 6:14 am #

    I love your insight about the long and short copy. I’ve heard this debate many times over and it’s raised concerns for me as I write the ‘long version’. You hit the mark with Dan Kennedy’s statement, “The person who says ‘I would never read all that copy’ makes the mistake of thinking they are the customer. And they’re not.” Case in point: People who ARE my customer always comment on the value they get from the high content that I deliver. Many thanks, Lorrie, for always providing such thought provoking wisdom.