The Incredible Case of the Shrinking Copy

There’s a quiet trend happening in direct mail that you may have noticed: marketing copy is getting shorter and shorter. This movement towards sleeker, more streamlined copy may be
helpful in conveying succinct, useful information to audiences, but it certainly can present a challenge for marketers. Here’s what you should know.


Information is being conveyed in shorter and shorter bites, and that might be because the human attention span is decreasing. In 2019, a peer-reviewed study from a team of European
scientists reported on a connection between decreased attention spans and the sheer volume of information presented to us on a daily basis. 1 In other words: more isn’t necessarily better,
especially when it comes to recalling and using information.

It’s not surprising, then, that marketers are working harder to ensure their copy gets right to the point. Since 2000, the average word count in common types of direct marketing mail has decreased dramatically. Envelopes have decreased word count by 124%, postcards by 30%, and self-mailers by 29%.

The actual information still has to be effective, reliable, and trustworthy. That’s where the challenge comes in: presenting enough high-quality information to gain the trust and loyalty of customers while minimizing word count.


In light of research on short attention spans and lowered word counts, the instinct might be to start shrinking your copy everywhere immediately. It’s understandable, but it’s not necessarily
the best approach. Instead, consider the unique needs of the individual product or service you’re selling and what prospective customers are thinking about when they shop for that product or service.

Copywriting expert Robert W. Bly suggests considering two core factors when determining the necessary copy length: emotion (how emotional the purchase of the product or service is) and
involvement (how much time and energy goes into making the decision). 3 More emotional and more involved purchases may require more words since prospective customers want in-depth
information before making their choice. Bly also suggests considering a few other factors, such as:

  • Price: Similar to the involvement factor, higher-priced items may need a little more copy to build the impression of value and assure customers that the purchase is worth the
    price tag.
  • Purpose: Copy designed to start the process or generate a lead should probably be shorter than copy meant to “close the deal.”
  • Audience: Shorter copy works best for target audiences with busy lives, while those with more time on their hands may prefer to read in-depth copy.
  • Importance: “Must-buy” items can be sold with shorter copy blocks since the customer has to buy them at some point, while luxury or “want to buy” items may require longer
    form copy to sell.
  • Familiarity: Short, to-the-point copy is more effective for items the customer is already familiar with – they might get bored with lengthy explanations and repetitive copy.


Engagement is vital whether you’re writing a short blurb or a longer copy. A longer explainer can be as enjoyable as a short, snappy piece if it tells a good story. Copy length does matter, but
copy of any length should be focused on conveying the most crucial information in the most engaging way.

Effective marketing copy anticipates what audiences want to know, answers that call, and offers a good reason to purchase. But there’s more to it than that. Audiences want to be educated, but they also want to be entertained.

At Allied, our marketing experts bring together knowledge of digital, direct mail, and design to partner with you on creating the right copy for your project. We’ll help you find the right
balance between style and function, and between long and short copy, to help your marketing copy stand out from the crowd and stay in customers’ memories for a long time.


1 Lorenz-Spreen, Philipp, et al. “Accelerating dynamics of collective attention.” Nature Communications 10 (2019),
2 Dhawan, Surbhi. “Long Copy vs Short Copy for Direct Mail: Data-Driven Insights, Trends, and Examples.” Who’s Mailing What, 23 August 2021,
3 Bly, Robert W. “Does long copy really work better than short copy?”

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