The 3 Bears Approach To Copy Length: How Much Is "Just Right?"

There are so many things to worry about when you're a copywriter.
Is my headline catchy enough?
Did I use correct spelling and grammar?
Will my words generate interest and/or sales?
One of the biggest questions to ask is, "Is my copy the right length?"
Writing the perfect amount of copy is a lot like the tale of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears.
Is it too long?
Too short?
And how do I know when it's "just right."
There's no way to answer it with a definitive word count.
But there are a few ways to figure out if you've got the right amount of information in the right places.

Too Long

Most of the copywriting issues I see involve copy that is too long. By too long, I mean writing more information than necessary to get a reader's attention. The goal of good copywriting is to catch and keep attention, plus generate more interest. This could lead to a sale, signing up for a blog, getting social media likes and follows, etc.
Often times writers will fill copy with what I call "fluff". Endless descriptions, technical data, how many times their mother said they loved whatever was being pitched.
But your audience doesn't care about any of that. They want to know what's in it for them. It's all about the benefits.
On social media, that could be a useful tip, a funny cat picture to brighten their day, or sharing a great cause they can join.
In an email, your target audience wants to know what's in it for them and what problem it will solve.
You have to remember that we are intruding into their lives. Why should they give us their valuable attention with so many other things competing for their time?
In this case, less is more.
How much should you write?
  • An eye-catching headline and first paragraph that creates interest to find out more.
  • Enough SPECIFIC information about a main benefit or the problem you are solving for your reader.
  • A strong call to action telling your target audience what you want them to do.
In general, for social media, advertisements, and emails, you want to keep it that short and simple. Use only enough words to get your message across. Anything more will either confuse or bore your audience.

Too Short

There are times when you NEED to have longer copy. Examples of places you need to increase the information in your copy are:
  • Sales pages/landing pages
  • Informational and educational blogs
  • Technical websites
  • Advertisements with side effects or legal disclaimers
It could be that you're introducing a new business that no one knows anything about. You're offering instructions on building the world's most elaborate backyard rollercoaster. Or you've got a product or service that comes with a hefty price tag. In these cases short and simple doesn't work.
When you have a high priced item or a new business, people are less inclined to buy it or buy into it until they can learn more. They need information. This is where the descriptions and technical data that were a no-no in emails and social media become importantIf your audience is trying to research or learn something you offer, you're not trying to get their have it. Now you're giving them the stories, the background, the different sizes and colors it might come in.
You're sharing testimonials from satisfied customers.
You're telling them about not only the benefits, but the features that justify the high price tag.
You're letting them know any risks they might encounter should they decide to move forward with your product or service.
To properly educate and inform in these cases, lengthy copy is necessary.

Just Right

What exactly is "just right" copy?
  • It's interesting to your target audience
  • It's written to reflect the correct platform
  • It focuses on what's in it for the audience rather than on you
  • It uses delivers your message or information without causing confusion or boredom
Once you know who your audience is, where to find them, and what you're delivering, you should have no trouble figuring out your copy length.