How to Avoid “Teleprompter Trap” in Your Copywriting

My buddy and former coworker Jason writes:

Thanks to your blog/daily emails (I prefer the RSS route, big surprise), I now write smaller sized paragraph in my emails. I didn't like that style at first but it grew on me.

(Although I don't quite have the Josh one-may-two-sentences-max paragraph style down.)

 

He's on to me—I do use lots of three-word sentences and one-line paragraphs in my copy.

Why is that?

About two dozen different reasons, actually, but the main one is that I want my copy to mimic the natural ebb and flow of conversation.

Next time you're talking with someone, observe how the conversation varies in pacing. As you get excited about something your pace quickens and you speak in shorter, clipped sentences. Then you'll slow down and get more thoughtful and reflective.

This natural change of pace keeps the conversation interesting.

In writing one way you achieve this effect is by varying your sentence and paragraph length.

Short and choppy sometimes, longer and more drawn out at other times.

Can you go overboard with this?

Definitely.

There's a whole school of email copywriters who seem incapable of typing more than 5 words without ending a sentence or adding an ellipse.

My theory on this is that they developed this habit from writing video scripts, which have to be paced a certain way to make them easy for the voiceover talent to read.

And so they've adopted…

this style…

where they only…

ever write a MAX of…

five words…

on a line…

because everyone reads email…

on a teleprompter dontchaknow…

This style is every bit as monotonous as if you always wrote 30-word sentences and 10-line paragraphs. It's unnatural, and your eye quickly starts to scan instead of reading.

So the takeaway—

Vary your sentence and paragraph length to mimic the ebb and flow of natural conversation. Err on the side of shorter rather than longer.

But beware of the staccato sentence “teleprompter trap”—unless you WANT to put your readers to sleep.