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.