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Which converts better and drives more sales: long-form copy or short-form copy?

It's been debated since the first recorded newspaper advertisement was published in 1704 in the Boston News-Letter:

"At Oyster-bay on Long-Island in the Province of N.York, There is a very good Fulling-Mill, to be Let or Sold, as also a Plantation, having on it a large new Brick house, and another good house by it for a Kitchin & work house, with a Barn, Stable, etc. a young Orchard, and 20 Acres clear Land. The Mill is to be Let with or without the Plantation: Enquire of Mr. William Bradford Printer in N.York, and know further." (My thanks to Derrick Daye for publishing this ad in his blog, Branding Strategy Insider.)

Clearly, the above was a short-form ad. And yet…

"The more you tell, the more you sell," claim the adherents of long copy.

"No one has time to read below the fold," counter short-copy partisans.

Of course, both sides are right... to the degree that each side fully understands its customer's needs and the customer's awareness of how well the product or service in question fulfills those needs.

In other words...

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Barry A. Densa is a freelance marketing and sales copywriter at Writing With Personality. For more, visit his blog Marketing Wit & Wisdom.