Short copy: small but mighty

short-stackThere are days when I wonder if words like to mess with people. Sometimes the mischief is obvious, like “its” vs. “it’s.” Words with multiple sounds or meanings are a bit sneakier (think “read,” “dove,” or “wind”).

But words are most devious in short copy.

Shouldn’t a quick headline or three-sentence “copy byte” be easier to write than a 20-page letter? After all, it’s easier to make a short stack of pancakes than to feed a roomful. Don’t words work the same way?

Nope.

Fact is, words distribute the workload. Fewer words mean each one has to work harder. That’s why the cost per word often goes up when writers have fewer words to work with.

Of course, hard-working words have a better chance of grabbing attention when readers have a short attention span. Which is most of the time.

Ten words or less? That’s power.

-Tom