The Paradox of Copywriting

July 5, 2006 by

Church Relevance looks at the paradox of copywriting and explores the difficulty of writing good copy for churches. It should be short and sweet, but don’t be afraid to write long–if it’s good.

I can never overemphasize the importance of short, scannable copy.

  • Keep it short.
  • Make it scannable.
  • Use headers and bulleted lists.
  • Short and to the point is better than cute and long.
  • Be consistent. If all your announcement have dates, times and costs, format them the same way so people know where to look for the important info.
Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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2 Responses to “The Paradox of Copywriting”

  • Roland
    July 5, 2006

    I’ve always heard “long copy sells” but thinking about it, it’s always an expert copyrighter saying that.
    The tried-and-true method is to measure the results from different ads/copy and continually improve.
    Our church ads were very graphic oriented. When I moved to focusing on text explaining what exactly we were advertising, our attendance seemed to increase. ( I say “seemed to” because there are so many other variables at play… but I guess that is true for any campaign).

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  • diane
    July 7, 2006

    Re copy length, IMHO, it depends. It depends on the type of advertising, the medium, the target audience, and all that good stuff.
    In classic print direct mail, long copy often *does* sell. As y’all are well aware, probably better than I, DM’s results are measurable, so the greater effectiveness of long copy vs. short can be verified. And has been. One of the most successful DM letters of all time was 12 pages long. (IIRC, it was for American Express.) And standard DM letters have historically been four pages long for a reason: That format has been shown to work, time and time again. Of course, this doesnt mean four pages of dense unbroken text. It means four pages with short paragraphs, bold subheads, bullet points, and other devices to render the copy easily skimmable. Even responders to long copy apparently skim, according to research I’ve seen. Nonetheless, counterintuitive as it may seem, they skim better–and respond more frequently–to four pages than to one. Leastwise, that was the case back when I was still writing print DM and following the research….
    Of course, all of the above applies only to classic DM, really. It doesn’t apply to image advertising, either print or broadcast. And as for the Internet—that’s another ball of wax altogether.
    I don’t write church ads, so I’m not familiar with the special challenges y’all face in that field. I’ve been a copywriter–mostly print and mostly direct response–for over 25 yearrs. For the past seven years, I’ve been an e-commerce / SEO copywriter for Sara Lee Branded Apparel (soon to spin off from the mothership as “Hanes Brands Inc.”). In that capacity, I help peddle ladies’ skivvies and such. Which is a far cry from church advertising, I suppose!

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