"Stuart, how long must my sentences and paragraphs be?"
This is the question that one of my students asked me the other day. He was referring to the length of the sentences and paragraphs in his sales letter - but the answer I gave him applies equally to any web page or email that you write.
Reading text from the computer screen is very different to reading the same text off of paper - it is much more difficult. You only have to spend a couple of hours glued to the computer screen to notice how your eyes quickly start to ache.
And what do you do when this happens, do you carry on reading?
If you're anything like me you just switch off the computer and take a break.
The same holds true if what you are reading is too difficult to follow. Take the following paragraph as an example:
"What is the purpose of your sales letter? Of course it is to get your prospect to buy your product it has no other job in it's life if your prospect has any problems reading or understanding your message or he is at all unclear about the meaning of some of the words in your letter do you think he'll carry on reading it to the very end and then impatiently hit the buy button or do you think you'll lose him before he reaches that stage without ever having had the chance to let him try your product out and you take his lovely money in your hands and kiss it because you love money so much?"
Did you manage to get through it in only one breath?
Did you even bother to try?
Terrible piece of writing isn't it? - One short sentence and one very long one. 110 words without punctuation! But it does illustrate my point: keep your sentences short and easy to read.
No matter what ‘power’ words or phrases you use or what story you tell. If they are lost inside a long incomprehensible sentence they are useless - nobody is going to bother reading yor sales letter.
The same goes for paragraphs, more and small is the byword. I've already mentioned that it is very difficult to read a large block of text on the screen because it is much more tiring on the eye.
So keep your paragraphs short and succinct. . . And, whatever you do, don't allow them to run across the full width of the sreen.
You're probably just like me, often receiving emails that when opened up hit you right in the face as a solid block of text. It's pretty daunting to look at so often I don't even bother to try, do you?
Sometimes when I do make the effort to read the letter then reply to the writer questioning why they write so. They tell me that either they don't think about this or, worse, they don't bother. Apparently the readability of what they write is not important!
If you don't make your sales letter easy to read, your prospect won't be able to follow your story without getting tired and giving up ¡V never to return again. They probably won't even try to read it in the first place.
A good rule of thumb is short, five line paragraphs containing no more than three short easy to read sentences.
One or two line paragraphs are also very effective, as are one word sentences.
Also remember that a high proportion of your readers may not have English as their first language. You need to keep your sentences simple - no high level words that only an English language professor would understand!
Make it simple to read and understand so your prospect can finish your story with a clear understaning of the power of your product. Give him the space he needs to let the excitement build up inside of him. . .
This makes your sales letter more effective and will bring you closer to a sale every time.
Copyright (c) 2006 Stuart Elliott
Stuart Elliott is a world-class copywriter who has written numerous articles about sales letters and copywriting. Drop by: http://howtowritekickbuttcopy.com to pick up your Free Copywriting Power Guide.