From my experience, here is a 10 item check list of questions to consider when you do your next copy rewrite:
1.) Is Simpler better? Your copy should have 80% or more words that are five letters long or less. Smaller words make you, the marketer, appear smarter. If you have a complex product or service, you will be better served by simplifying your marketing prose.
2.) What grade-level should you write to? A 6th grade level seems to be the level from most campaigns I have done. This will force you to make your material easier to understand, but not so basic you offend people.
3.) How long should your sentences be? 15-20 words on average is optimal. However, I prefer to start with a quick 10 word or less sentence, focusing on a single benefit, whenever possible. One that captures the reader and makes them want to read on.
4.) How long should your longest headlines be? 7 words or fewer seems to keep the reader engaged. I prefer headlines and sub-heads that tell your story quickly, hopefully re-engaging those who skim your material. Shorter headlines also force the writer to make every single word count.
5.) What’s the best ratio of “you” to “I” and “we”? 3 times as many “you” or “yours” is great, 4 times as many is better. “You” directly addresses the reader and makes them feel important and a part of your story. Subliminally they feel that you are corresponding directly with them.
6.) How long should the longest paragraph be? 6 lines or less. It makes things easier to read, less daunting and if you use subheads correctly, you do not need longer paragraphs.
7.) How long should the first and last sentence be? 15 words maximum, however, shorter is better. Shorter sentences engage the readers quicker. Do not drone on at the end either. Close quickly and with confidence.
8.) What’s the maximum number of bullet points I should use at once? Never more than 7, as we are trained to learn phone numbers of 7 digits, or brains typically have a harder time with more. Use less than 7 when possible and break up longer lists with short paragraphs and solid sub heads.
9.) What is more important, the headline or the P.S.? Assuming you have the name and address correct, the headline is the most read part of the correspondence, but the P.S. or close is the second most read. The P.S. should either have a strong call to action or redirect the reader back to the body copy. Please, rarely use a P.P.S.
10.) What is the most powerful word to use? FREE. You may be tired of writing it, but the fact is, it still works.
With banner ads and newer interactive media options, error on the side of shorter, not longer. Especially with headlines.