Once upon a time, after her well-documented encounter with the Three Bears, Goldilocks grew up and got a job in copywriting. One day, she was asked to compose some copy for a new web page. So she started writing…
Her first article was too short. It didn’t convey her thoughts effectively.
Her second article was too long. It stretched on for countless paragraphs, spelling out all of her thoughts in exhausting detail. Casual readers would happen upon the article only to glance at its size and promptly leave. A few stayed and started to read only to give up about half way through when it became apparent that the article had more filler than valuable content. On and on it stretched, seemingly without end, eventually taking on an almost repetitive and rambling tone. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but Goldilocks forgot to review it for readability. It had many blatant speling errorz because she failed to proofread, and her content ran together in huge chunks because there was nothing to differentiate areas of importance to her readers.
Her last article was just right. It was concise, but detailed enough to communicate her ideas. Every word added value, and every sentence flowed neatly into the next. Goldilocks even made sure to use titling, emphasis, and lists to summarize her content for casual skimming. Because it was both readable and valuable, her readers were delighted.
The Moral of the Story: When it comes to web copy, writers have to tread a fine line between too little detail and too many words. Readers do not have the same patience with web copy that they do with print. If it seems too long or lacking in value, your audience will simply stop reading. Even a genuinely valuable piece will often be skimmed rather than read in its entirety. It’s just the nature of the medium.
As a writer, the copy length that’s “just right” is the one that provides the most value in the least words. For every sentence, and even every word, ask yourself, “Is this adding value for my readers?” If not, take it out. Likewise, examine your article as a whole and determine if a casual skimmer could easily pull out the important points. If not, add a few summarizing elements. In this way, you can achieve maximum value in as few words as possible for every reader type.
Additional Resources: When it comes to copywriting, I’m a big fan of Copyblogger. Here’s what they have to say about trimming your copy until it’s “just right.”