Here’s something that came up in discussion over the weekend – Time might be a universal experience, but for a copywriter it can be either a best friend or a worst enemy.

You see, no matter how much we might want it to, Time does not scale along with word count.

‘Rework’ is still work

Most people believe that since the content is all there, a rewrite should be a fairly quick task for a copywriter.

No research needed. Just take that direct mail piece from last year and ‘just quickly rework it’ so that it fits the new creative and artwork, right?

Except it never seems to happen that way, does it?

It seems to always take the same amount of time to write a new version as it did with the original; often needing several edits and revisions to make it right.

This paradox of time is not confined to the usual copywriter tasks. Reports and slideshows, emails and meeting notes. Each piece of writing needs the same level of thinking and effort to be effective.

Saying more with less

Recently, I was working on writing a short 25-word introductory piece of copy for a slick-looking home page.

It had to be short, but it also had to work along with the photography to persuade the reader to continue to the inner pages.

It took a long time to find the right 25 words. At least as long as writing each of the 400 word inner pages.

Why is this?

Room with a view

When you have a lot of space to outline an argument in a blog post, or to make a sales pitch in a DM piece or web page, you have oodles of room to state the case and take the reader along the path of persuasion.

You might begin with a statement that captures interest. You then give a reason to believe or to carry on reading, not yet revealing the full picture. Then a strong and empowering call-to-action to help motivate the reader along and take the action you hope they will take.

When you have only 25 or 30 words to do the same, you must go through the same writing process. With so few words, you must still attract and hold the reader’s attention, convey a reason to believe the proposition, and offer an inspiring call-to-action.

With one-twentieth the words, you must create the same outcome: action.

The next time you brief your copywriter, remember this Time paradox and help your copywriter make friends with it. The work will be much better for it.

by Steve Kellas

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