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How To Write Copy That Is The Perfect Length

With people’s ever shrinking attention spans, it’s clear that the best strategy is to use short copy, make shorter videos, and try to use a lot of pictures so people don’t need to read. This is the way, and yet…

  • The number one podcast in the world is the Joe Rogan Podcast. The average length of an episode is over two hours.
  • “The Snyder Cut,” a 4-hour Director’s cut of The Justice League, was released in March 2020. Within a week, it had been viewed more than 2.2 million times.
  • The ideal length of content for SEO is anywhere from 1,000 – 2,400 words, depending on which source you believe.

Which is all very strange since over the last 4-5 years, I keep hearing that people don’t have the attention spans to read copy.

The Myth of the Goldfish

We’ve all heard about how human beings have shorter attention spans than goldfish, right? Well, it turns out that is nonsense: The Great Goldfish Myth

We’ve also heard that shorter copy is what people want. Well, that’s also just not always true: Sometimes longer copy is better, sometimes shorter is better.

I am skeptical of narrative that encourages us to think of people like hyperactive children, with no attention spans, and who can’t read more than 40 words without needing to check their Instagram. I don’t believe it’s true and to be honest, I find it condescending and patronizing.

  • Yes, Twitter changed things.
  • Yes, we are more distracted now than we have been in the past.
  • No, this does not reduce the human form to an illiterate meat sack with iPhones for hands who can only communicate in memes.

Maybe it’s all the goldfish’s fault but I believe we’ve created a self-fulfilling prophecy. First, there are the social media sites that set this narrative in motion with form factors and algorithms that confine and reward us for short form content. Then there’s the feedback loop. We produce short content and then our competitors and peers produce short form content until most of what we see is short form. Then, when people consume it, we believe that only shorter content works because any long form content that succeeds is seen as an outlier amongst all of the short form content.

But that doesn’t change the truth…

People want great content, regardless of length.


There are countless examples across virtually every media platform that prove that longer form content, including copy, can be extremely effective. Those that think shorter copy automatically wins are holding onto the mistaken belief that it is about people’s attention spans.

It’s not.

What changed is that we have more choices and more opportunities for distraction. It may be tough to hear this but they aren’t leaving because your content is too long, they’re leaving because you weren’t more interesting than the alternative. When someone says that something is “too long” what they often really meant is “this isn’t interesting enough to hold my attention” or “this had too much detail that wasn’t interesting or relevant.”

The availability of more choices is not changing the length, it’s raising the bar.

It’s much easier to blame long form copy for your website not converting, your sales deck being ignored, or your whitepaper falling flat than it is to admit that you’re just not that interesting. And yet, strangely enough, when we rely on short form copy and neglect to add enough detail, few people stop to suggest that you should write more copy. It’s got to be something else, they say…because people, and goldfish, and attention spans, ya know?

Give People The Benefit Of The Doubt

We collectively groan about the shortening attention spans of “people these days” and yet many of us are actively making it worse when we cut copy simply for the sake of short.

I am a voracious reader, and I know I’m not the only one out there. People are smarter than we’re giving them credit for and if we keep treating them like illiterate idiots then eventually they won’t disappoint us.

I’m not arguing that long is better. I’m arguing that good is better.

Write something great. That’s the perfect length.

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