Short copy definition

What is short copy?

Short copy is original promotional content that creates the most impact using the least number of words to a targeted audience. Short copy is also referred to as short-form copy or short-form content. Short copy is designed to be concise and memorable. Among the most familiar short copy examples are slogans, such as the original copywriting tagline you see above.

Because short copy is typically under 1000 words and sometimes consists of just one or two lines, every word counts — just as in a tweet, every character counts. This is why short copy, for its writer, is a culmination of market research and in-depth understanding. It sounds simple and can be understood in a flash, but you can bet that if it works, it wasn't conceived in a flash. Short copy is precise. Unlike long-form copy, short copy doesn't include content fillers or dispensable words just to improve Google ranking.

What short copy can do

Short copy is written in the context of a specific marketing or communications goal, and a specific visual context so that it can match the graphics accompanying it. It is meant to influence, inspire, capture leads, or compel action. Due to its brief nature, short copy usually focuses on one idea that serves as a springboard for:

  1. ​Finding out more about a product, service, or event
  2. Compelling readers to take action (buy that product, order that service, attend that event, or click that button)
  3. Communicating a corporate communications message (such as a greeting, thank-you, or invite)

Short copy products

Short copy can serve B2C and B2B marketing communications purposes. It includes such writing products as:

Banner ads, PPC ads, magazines ads

Brand names and product names

Calls-to-action (CTA's)

Captions and photo commentary

Company boilerplate copy

Direct mail advertising

E-newsletters and product copy

Greeting cards & novelty item phrases

Marketing fliers & posters

Product profiles & sales sheets ​

Social media profiles/posts (tweets, hashtags)

Squeeze pages (short landing pages)

Taglines (brand, product, event, campaign slogans)

A greeting card is a short copy example.

Short copy vs. long copy

Faced with the choice of what type of copy to use for your webpage, do you pick short copy or long copy? The answer depends on what you're selling (does it need a detailed introduction and description?) and on your audience's attention span (are they busy and likely to tune out quickly?). Compared to short copy, long copy leaves more room for error since it allows more words to convey your message. Short copy, if written with surgical precision by a short-form copywriter, can almost always accomplish the same goal (by skipping the fillers and using clarity to grip its audience).

How to write short copy

Writing short copy aims at going beyond the hype to provide lasting value through the right words. It requires a deep understanding of the target market, consumer psychology, pop culture, messaging goals — and a mastery of language. Short copy benefits from sayings, idioms, proverbs, and popular phrases — it should sound familiar and conversational to speak the language of its audience. But short copy goes beyond common phrases: it leverages them to achieve the marketing goal. It goes the extra mile to create the perfect fit between the target audience mindset and the right words.

Quotes, taglines, and common phrases can make compelling short copy.

How much can short copy really say?

At first glance, the marketing stories that short copy can tell seem to be limited by its word count. Yet just because you use less words doesn't mean you're saying less. Consider this famous six-word story, an example of flash fiction of unknown origin, and what it can tell you: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

These six words, in this exact order, tell a memorable story.

What does short-form copywriting have to do with technical copywriting?

The same principles underlying short-form copy, when applied to technical copywriting for industries like financial services and enterprise software, can deliver powerful results. This is because the more specialized a product, solution or service, the more tempted marketers become to inject redundancy and wordiness into content, in an attempt to add substance or compensate for not fully understanding what they're promoting. Conversely, a complete understanding of what's being promoted can achieve the efficiency and discipline characteristic of short-form copy, without forgoing clarity and technical details.

How does editing relate to short-form copy?

Editing can distill, transform and repurpose. Including all the relevant information is easy. Using it to create impact isn't. This is where the choice of what to keep, and what to edit out, enters the picture and clarifies it for the reader. Good writing is rewriting — until you get it right. A piece of marketing collateral goes through many drafts before reaching the client, as talented copywriters are their own best critic. And short-form copywriters have the discipline to do just that.

Where can I find free design templates for flyers and other short-form copy products?

Here are some online resources that offer free design templates for flyers, posters, social media posts, banners, greeting cards, and invitation cards.

  1. Poster My Wall
  2. Canva
  3. Greetings Island
  4. Picmonkey
  5. Freepik
  6. Photo Ad King
  7. Adobe Express

Of course, a great design isn't valuable without powerful copy that says what you mean and that compels action. Thinking of picking a free design from the templates in the above resources? It's the perfect start for hiring a freelance short-form copywriter to deliver the impact you're seeking by using the right words for your business.

Find a short-form copywriter

A short-form copywriter can distill an idea to its essence and capture it in a few powerful words that achieve a specific sales or marketing goal. It's easy to find a short-form copywriter with a quick Google search, but it might not be so easy to find one who understands your brand and views it through your eyes.

Get help with developing short copy products for your brand by contacting a short-form copywriter today and requesting your free customized quote.