Copywriting Basics – Aim for a Short Average Sentence Length

Copywriting Basics ─ Aim for a Short Average Sentence Length

In the last post, I wrote about using simple words for more effective copywriting.

Now we’ll move up to the sentence level. A basic copywriting rule is to keep a short average sentence length. This concept might sound silly for copywriting, but it’s based on the fact that long sentences are more difficult to read and comprehend. Readers are turned off by complicated writing, so they might not read your copywriting if it has long and complex sentences.

In some circles (such as academics and scientists), it’s considered clever and sophisticated if you write with long sentences. But this is a big mistake when copywriting.

Look at the following example of copywriting:

Drawing back on our years of experience in consulting to businesses in array of issues, from ISO 9001 to business design and strategy, we developed a unique methodology that offers you a real quality solution for your ISO needs, without the expensive price tag that is usually attached to quality ISO 9001 systems.

At 52 words, this sentence is difficult to follow. This sentence length may be acceptable for a Dostoyevsky novel, but is far too long for copywriting.

Copywriting experts recommend that average sentence length should be between 15 and 20 words. Remember this is an average.

It’s okay to have some 30-word sentences if you also have some short sentences in your copywriting.

How do you measure average sentence length when copywriting?

If you use Microsoft Word for copywriting, it’s easy to measure average sentence length.

After you finish a draft of your copywriting project, do a spelling and grammar check. The average sentence length will be listed as Words per Sentence under Averages. It’s that simple.

If you’re not seeing the average sentence length at the end of the spelling and grammar check, you’ll need to change a setting.

Go to Tools and then Options. Select the Spelling and Grammar tab and check the Show readability statistics box in the Grammar section. Now you’ll see the average sentence length of your copywriting at the end of the spelling and grammar check.

If you want to check the length of a single sentence when copywriting, highlight the text, select Tools, and then select Word Count.

The Readability Statistics box includes a number of figures that can help you with your copywriting. I’ll explain these in future copywriting blog posts. For now we’ll focus on average sentence length when copywriting.

Turning bad copywriting into good copywriting

Let’s look at our 52-word mega-sentence again. How can we improve it? Here’s my attempt (without spending much time on it).

We have drawn on extensive consulting experience on a range of issues ─ from ISO9001 to business design and strategy ─ to develop a unique methodology that offers you a quality solution for your ISO needs. We provide this without the typical high cost of quality ISO 9001 systems.

I have broken the long sentence into two sentences ─ the first one has 36 words and the second one has 13 words. The average sentence length is now 23.5 words ─ not at our goal for copywriting, but much better than before.

Remember to look at the length of your sentences when copywriting and aim to keep the average below 20 words. Break a long sentence into two or three shorter ones.

This concept is not difficult to apply to your copywriting, but it will make it easier to read and comprehend. The result is better copywriting ─ and improved results.

 PS This post has an average sentence length of 15.6 words ─ even with the 52-word sentence example in the beginning.

Copywriting Basics — Use Simple Words

Copywriting Basics ─ Use Simple Words


One of the first rules of copywriting is to keep it simple. When copywriting for any format you need to keep in mind that people don’t like reading long or complicated copy.


Have you ever looked at a brochure, website or letter with too much text? Most likely, you put it down without reading it. Poor copywriting is to blame. You’ve probably received eight-page sales letters in the mail or been on a website where you have to continue scrolling to get through it. With so much information out there, it’s easy to stop reading when the copy is so lengthy.


Simple and Effective Copywriting Requires Time and Effort


When copywriting, it takes time and effort to put more effort to produce simple and effective copy. Mark Twain summarised this well when he wrote, “I am sorry this is such a long letter, but I did not have the time to write a short one.” He wasn’t referring to copywriting per se, but his statement still applies.


A basic copywriting tip – use simple words


One of the most basic tips to reduce the length of your copywriting is to use simple words. Copywriting that includes simple words takes up less space and is easier to read.


Here are some ideas of how you can use simple words to improve your copywriting.


                        Instead of:                            Use:

                        accomplish                            do

                        ascertain                                find out

                        disseminate                           send out, distribute

                        endeavour                              try

                        expedite                                 hasten, speed up

                        facilitate                                  make easier, help

                        locality                                    place

                        optimum                                 best, greatest, most

                        utilise                                      use


You can see that simple words convey the same idea with fewer letters. If you apply this idea to your copywriting project, your copy will be much easier to read and take up less space on the page. It’s more inviting to readers, so there’s a better chance your copy will be read.


You can apply this concept to wordy phrases by replacing them with single words.


Instead of:                            Use:

                        with regard to                        about

                        by means of                           by

                        in the event that                      if

                        until such time                        until

                        during such time                    during

                        subsequent to                        after

                        it would appear that               apparently

                        adequate number of              enough


You can improve your copywriting if you follow the suggestions to use simple words and replace phrases with single words.


After you have completed a first draft of your copywriting project, go back and edit what you have written. Replace complicated words with simple ones (a thesaurus is a helpful tool for this) and replace phrases with single words when possible.

Although we’re specifically looking at copywriting here, applying the concept of simplicity will improve any type of writing.


What is copywriting and why is it important?

Blog On Copywriting

Welcome to our new blog on copywriting.

In the coming months and years we’ll be covering a diverse range of topics on all forms of written communication for business. We’ll divide these into four main categories: copywriting, speech writing, business writing, editing and proofreading. During the next five weeks ─ through the end of January 2009 ─ we’ll be looking at copywriting.

There is a lot of confusion about copywriting. Many business people don’t have a clear understanding about copy writing and its importance. I’ve met small and medium business owners and managers who are surprised that an outside company or individual would offer to write copy for their business. Some are even surprised that such a service exists. One of their first questions is, ‘How can you write about our business if you’re not in our business?’ Others confuse the term copywriting with copyright, a legal concept for protecting intellectual property.

On the other hand, there are professional copywriters who have a very narrow definition of copy writing. They think that the only good copy writing is direct response copywriting. These are the copywriting gurus who offer to teach you copy writing in a weekend ─ for the special price of $6,000 for a three-day course. You’ll learn all the copy writing secrets and become tremendously successful in a very short time.  

In the coming months I’ll cover copy writing from the ground up. The first step will be to give you a solid definition of copy writing. Then we’ll look at the different types of copy to determine which style is best for your product, your service and your organisation.

See you soon!