Are You In Love With Your Own Writing?

writing for yourself

My Gran used to say we were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Some people act like it’s the other way around.

We’ve all had the experience of a friend calling on the phone “just to chat”. They jabber on long past a socially-acceptable point, and your ear gets sore from the phone against your head. You try to find reasons to curtail the never-ending torrent of small-talk about them, but we all love our friends dearly and don’t want to offend.

So why are you seriously considering strangling yourself with the phone cord just to get some respite? Are you really looking forward to the next “chatty” call?

In copy, online or off, you have to choose one point. Get your message across, then stop.

If you can’t distill your message down succinctly, then try harder. Every minute of additional effort on your part reduces the effort on the part of the reader, and that leads to more successful copy. Don’t force your reader to wade through a Wikipedia-sized reference when a few paragraphs will do. The easier you make it, the more successful your content will be.

Write out a draft and look over to see what you’ve created. Then, chop out the fat.

Yes, people still do read long copy, but they won’t read it unless they can see the benefit of doing so, and not if they are already asleep. It’s beneficial information that people want, not the mundane details of your personal life.

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Reader Comments (29)

  1. says

    In fact when writing stuff I would start with the most important and relevant information first. Kick it right there. Then add the fluff, if you must.

    That way you are not wasting time of your readers.

  2. says

    Oscar Wilde once wrote a letter to a friend which started “I apologise for the length of this letter; I did not have time to write a shorter one”.

    Nuff said.

  3. says

    Chris, of course you’re talking to everyone but me, right? Kidding aside, I have really been working on this very thing in my personal life and in my blog.

    Constant reminders are a good thing, thank you.

  4. says

    What about all these copy writing references that state that long copy sells better than short?

    What about informercial-istic landing pages that heap on the “benefits” until the reader, salivating at the mouth, finally gives in and coughs up her digits?

    I don’t write this kind of thing. I do see it and understand it’s value. I think this post would do well to differentiate being narcissistic in your writing idiosyncracies (purposeful obscure reference, intentional poor cadence…which I do in personal writing) and using longwinded sensationalism for the sake of a sale.

    I could be wrong.

  5. says

    I do address it, here when I say

    Yes, people still do read long copy, but they won’t read it unless they can see the benefit of doing so

  6. says

    What I’m getting at is that there are reasons that people write long copy; they could be more succinct but intentionally do not.

    Your riff is a post on brevity. I’m not disagreeing with it, merely pointing out that there are no hard and fast rules…it all comes down to your audience I suppose.

  7. says

    Robert, in many cases long copy works better because offering more information, along with tons of express benefits, will sell much more than shorter copy. Since the goal is to sell as much as possible in those cases, it makes sense to go with the longer copy.

    Chris’ point is still sound, though… you can keep going as long as you actually have something beneficial to say. Good long copy actually offers the reader new information, or reframes the information in a new way that converts into more sales than if the “different way of saying the same thing” was left out.

  8. says

    Robert, even with long copy the fat should be trimmed. A novel is longer than a short story, but every word in a novel should still be there for a reason. A 300 page novel may have started out life as a 700 page draft. I think the point has less to do with the actual length of copy than is does with making every word count.

    Thanks for the reminder Chris. Trimming the fat is one area I think I need to work on to improve my writing.

  9. says

    Totally agree. As a copywriter, I know it’s always about trying to get things down to the bare essentials but still engage and inform in some way. Long copy can work – in the right medium and for the right audience – but it’s often easy to spot when that approach isn’t the right one. More often than not trimming is required.

    It’s good to be reminded of that.

  10. says

    As an editor, one of my biggest pet peeves is when writers tell you what they are going to say before they actually say it.

    Phrases like “Further explaining the process” kill me. Just say it!

  11. says

    Rhythm counts as well as brevity.

    A poet there was from Japan
    Whose poetry just would not scan
    When asked why this was
    He said its because
    I always try to get as many words into the last line as I possibly can.

  12. says

    I totally agree with copy needing to be concise. Nothing irritates (or alienates actually) more than ridiculously long copy. I skip over it or close out of the page. The writer has totally lost me. TBeing concise in my own blogging can be tough so this post is a great reminder of why pithy and short is so important. Thanks!

  13. says

    You are so right on this one Chris, I do B2B face to face sales offline for my base residual income.

    I wish I had a dollar right now for every time that I should have shut-up and let the sale happen. But no, I had to keep selling to the point where they backed away.

    Sometimes you simply have to present your item in an appealing way and let them sell themselves.

    The old saying goes, “kiss….keep it simple, stupid”.

    Long copy has it’s place just as short does. If your selling a widget that does one simple little thing, then there’s no reason for a 4000 word sales page.

    I have, as well as most of your readers, bought simple software from a 400 word copy. Just tell me what it does, keep the hype and promises of great wealth out of it.

    Over hype tends to push away more than pull in. (unless of course you are targeting the newbie IM’er!!)

    Treat your prospects like someone that knows what they are doing and the ones that are on the edge will jump on just to act like they know what they are doing!

    Does that make sense to anyone else?

    Remember: people are not interested in what YOU have to sell…..they are only interested in what THEY want to buy.

    Brian Ankner

  14. says

    I seem to have trouble with this. It’s a difficult habit to shake, one I probably picked up as a child and refined it in the pub! Nothing makes a semi-funny event more humerous than adding irreverent observations in-between, dragging it out a pint or two.

    Unfortunately, we can’t all be certain our readers are on the drink when viewing. Mine probably are, if they are even sticking around, but I know that not for certain! 😀

  15. says

    it’s true–people don’t know when to stop talking/writing and by the time they do, the audience has already lost interest.

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