How to break up long copy (and keep your reader hungry for more)

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I love reading great copy but there is something a little intimidating about a long page of copywriting.

I get the same feeling when someone places a huge plate of food in front of me. I feel exhausted (and full) just looking at it!

A long page of copy can be a real turn off because we don’t read nowadays; we skim. We scan the page looking for signals that this copy has the answer we seek, the scratch to our itch or just some good old fashion entertainment.

Whatever we’re looking for, we rarely sit down and read online content word for word.

So how do you make them stay, and listen to all you say. How do you keep the waves upon the saaaaaand. Woah. Sorry. I went all Sound of Music there.

But seriously. How you hook scrollers in to read more of your message?

You break it up into digestible chunks and make it nice to look to at. Just like a toddlers dinner. When you apply the techniques I cover in this post, the skimmers will still know what you’re talking about and be persuaded to dig a little deeper.

I’m going to show you how to break up your long copy, transforming a text-heavy landscape into a delight to the eyes. Not to mention an irresistible attraction to read more.

Here we go…

There are some tried and tested copywriting methods to break up long copy. They aren’t complicated or tricky to pull off but you must exercise some restraint otherwise your marketing copywriting will look like that time you left the house wearing every accessory you own.

Not a good look.

Subheadings tell your mini-story

Good subheadings catch the eye and hint at the value of the copywriting that follows. But they can do more than that.

A subheading helps to break content up: a great way to elbow some white space onto the page

A subheading helps the transition: helps readers follow your train of thought and transition to the next point you’re making.

A subheading creates a road map: allow the readers who simply scan your copy to get a feel for the entire piece. To test your subheadings, skim your copy only reading the subheadings. Do you know what your article/letter/blog/brochure is about?

Think of subheadings as doors opening up to rooms of text: you want them to be easy to unlock or else the reader will stop trying to open them.

  • Avoid puns and cryptic words.
  • Use consistent grammatical structures (like starting with verbs or asking questions).
  • Don’t make them too long. Focus on short and powerful.
  • Link them to your topic.

Lists. So easy to skim.

Enough said really! That awesome little list of tips above, made so much more readable using a bullet list!

I like to keep my lists to 5 items or fewer as long lists are just as overwhelming as long paragraphs! If you find yourself with longer lists, consider other ways of formatting – or keep each point very brief.

White space for some visual breathing room

Long copy is already bombarding your reader so it’s important to provide some room between headings, words, paragraphs and images.

Separate ideas into different paragraphs and make sure there is space between them. Add space after headlines and subheadings and don’t be afraid to have a one line sentence proudly standing, surrounded my space.

White space is your friend!

Use formatting to pick out your shiny points

I love a good sprinkling of bold, italics and varying sizes through copy. It can really help make phrases stand out and I use them to indicate, “if nothing else is read, this must be read”.

But you don’t want your copy to look like Las Vegas so show some restraint. After all, overuse will just lead to irrelevance.

You can also show use your punctuation to add some visual pizzazz. That’s right. I said pizzazz.

  • Use 1, 2, 3 instead of one, two, three. Not necessarily grammatically correct, but great in headlines.
  • Use added periods for emphasis of a key phrase, especially at the end of a line: These. Must. Be. Used. Sparingly.
  • Separate a string of thoughts… with ellipses that… give the eye a break.
  • Use brackets (even when something’s not a side note).
  • Trading in periods and commas for long, noticeable lines—called em dashes—can give a statement a bit more drama—and make it stand out.
  • Replace “and” with an ampersand (i.e. “&”) or a plus sign (i.e. “+”).

Now you may have to fight with your proofreader on some on these but they will give your readers’ eyes a bit of a break and make long copy a little more interesting to read.

Ditch the justified text

Sure it looks neat when it all lines up nicely on the right hand side but it actually makes your copywriting harder to read.

Allow different sized paragraphs and sentences of varying lengths to add some ebb and flow to your copywriting.

Note: Justifying your copy is different to aligning your copy. When you justify your copy, you’ll get a big square shape of words. Left align your copy for a more shapely and readable view.

Add visual variety

My last tip is to spice things up visually with things like testimonials whizzied up as images, call to actions or images that connect with your messages.

These are essential techniques when you’re writing landing page that tend to be loooooong. They are long because there is usually a lot of story to tell but that’s when presentation of the copy becomes critical.

And now it’s over to you…. Do you like reading long copy or short copy? Have you got any other tricks that help make the long read a pleasure?

The Copy Detective

7 Responses

  1. Revamped the company Newsletter after reading this article. Look forward to seeing how the format is received.

  2. Hi Belinda,

    Actionable tips. Loved them.

    I love copy which keeps me engaged till the end. As long as everything required is poured down, I am happy.

    Formatting is the key to make your copy easy for people. In addition we need to keep it juicy with details, story-telling and fun pics in between to keep them craving till the end.

    I believe a great copy is something which solves my problem big time and explains all the FAQ’s, hiccups and worries in fun, crisp and real tone.

    Stay Awesome.

  3. A great article Belinda. Writing well and effectively is a constant battle for many of us. I also use Grammarly to help me with some basic grammar corrections. I wonder how Grammarly will handle some of your tips e.g., using “&” instead of “and”?

    1. Sometimes you have to break the rules… but knowing the rules in the first place is essential AND knowing when it will actually help your reader.

      Thanks for stopping by Katarina!

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