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Can Long Copy On The Net Work

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peter van dijck

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User since: 22 Oct 1999

Articles written: 23

Basically: if it's interesting copy, well written copy, heck,

internet copy, yes. It can work.

Popular knowledge says long text doesn't work on the net. I

disagree. If used properly, it can be very effective.

Have you ever kept reading on a webpage, and been

disappointed there wasn't any more?

How not to do it

Long text as used in newspapers or

books indeed doesn't work on the net. I think most of you will

agree with me on that. On the other hand, on some sites

text is just too short, and to read more you need to keep

going to new pages (to show more ads?), which can be

pretty frustrating.

I think if you follow the


for internet writing

(make it

scannable, conclusions first, good subtitles, one idea per

paragraph and so on), long texts can work pretty well. Have

a look at --

it's all text, and although it's

not perfect, it keeps you reading (me at least).

So how to do it

A few more rules that work for me:

  1. keep rewriting

    Most writers know this, but if you're an

    average Joe like me, this is rule number one. After writing

    something, let it be for a day and rewrite thoroughly. And

    then rewrite again. And spellcheck. If you can, have

    somebody read it (editor).

    I think the main problem for content on the web these days

    is that people don't work hard enough on their copy (yes,

    that includes me).

  2. conclusion first!

    Put your conclusion first. There can be

    no laps of interest (where a reader looses interest) in your

    article, or they'll loose appetite and start clicking. So put


    juicy stuff first, and keep feeding them. (I'm gonna end this

    eating metaphor right here before it gets out of hand.)

    Will they still wanna read on if you give them the good stuff

    right away? I think they will. If you give them something

    really good, people will want to know more about it.

    And put content on that page! I'm always amazed by how

    many sites want you to click 2 or 3 times before getting to

    the good stuff. Content on the homepage!

Further reading

Have a look at

string of pearls. It kind of

disagrees with all I said here, but I find it very


And has a classic on


people read on the web

What do you think? Can long copy really work? Does

everything HAVE to be divided into lots of sub-pages? Why

not just throw it all on one page? Or should it be serial, like

the string of pearls pages?
Peter Van Dijck is an Information Architect with an interest in localization, accessibility, content management systems and metadata.
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