How Long is Yours – Paragraph and Sentence Length
Rule 1: Big things come in small packages.
Rule 2: Spice things up with variety.
At least in the world of copywriting, shorter is usually better. A commonly passed around trick of the trade is to, on every job, write the length you think you need. And then cut it in half. The shortened version will be immensely better.
Sometimes you will cut it in half again.
Long paragraphs dominate in academic writing. Copywriting is closer in paragraph pattern to journalism. One- or two-sentence paragraphs rule the pages of brochures, advertisements, webpages. Six-sentence and longer paragraphs are a rare species.
Likewise, traditional academic writing and even most journalism prefers the boring old full sentence. Copywriters sling around one-word sentences like Jackson Pollock flinging drops of paint while on a meth-fuelled binge. Noun-only sentences. Verb-only sentences. Sentences that are phrases. Sentences that are clauses. And so on.
Paragraph and sentence length will be partially determined by the tone of voice established for a brand. Certain brands will be defined by short, snappy copy. Other brands will be defined by long descriptive copy. Aside from, or in spite of, the overall length predominating the brand’s copy, it is often useful to provide some variation. A page of only one-sentence paragraphs is a jackhammer to the brain. And a page of interminably long paragraphs will put readers to sleep.
Vary the pace.
Give the reader a chance to breathe with the occasional short sentence or paragraph. Or break the clip of short and snappy with a full elaborated thought here and there.
Major Exception: Online Copywriting
In print copywriting and in brand-driven websites, shorter copy reigns supreme. Search engine algorithms however reward longer pages.
The Magic Google sees pages with buckets of words as information rich and therefore rewards them with higher rankings (of course there are many other factors that go into how Google determines the rank, but all things being equal, a 600-word page would tend to outrank a 60-word page.)
You likely know the maxim CONTENT IS KING. Unless you’re an absolute newbie or a raging alcoholic with holes in your memory like your cirrhotic liver, you know what we’re talking about. Many of our best friends are raging alcoholics. Hold on a second… I spilled whiskey all over the keyboard… … …
Okay, got that wiped up.
Where were we?
Oh yeah. Content is king. Google likes words. Page lengths of approximately 500 words serve as a good standard.
That said, you’re not writing for a robot; you’re writing for human beings. If you create amazing content that human beings love, you can rise above your word count. Google will see the traffic you’re attracting as a sign of value. And if people share the webpage with their friends via social media networks and social bookmarking sites, then that’s even more gold stars for the Google machine.
Alternatively, if you write 1,200 words of drivel, you may be driving your potential readers and fans away like a fat woman in a tube top or a man in an Ed Hardy t-shirt.
Make your online copywriting like the length of a skirt – long enough to be respectable yet short enough to keep your readers excited.