One of the biggest “I’M JUST A STUDENT” banners you can wave is having headlines that are way too long. If you’re a copywriter, you need to learn to edit without losing meaning or interest. If you’re an art director, you need to do the same. The words may not technically be your responsibility, but it’s still your ad. And a too-long headline can bring it down.
Let’s say you’re doing ads for a paint store that delivers the paint right to your home once you’ve selected a color on-line. You could start with a headline like this:
You can paint a whole lot more when you don’t have the paint department getting in your way.
Okay. I get it. Kind of interesting. But can you trim it?
You can paint a lot more when the paint department’s not in your way.
Much shorter. But are the words “a lot” really necessary?
You can paint more when the paint department’s not in your way.
Do you have to use the words “You can” at the beginning?
Paint more when the paint department’s not in your way.
Let’s get our Hemmingway on.
Paint more without the paint department in your way.
Paint more without the paint department.
And how about this?
Paint without a paint department.
I’m not saying that’s the absolute best one. But it’s a little more interesting than the original. And certainly more succinct. You could argue that there’s more character, and more of a voice in some of the longer lines. Maybe. Sometimes longer lines will give you the voice you need. But I think there’s plenty of character in the shortest line.
More often than not, headlines should be short. And writers and art directors need to be able to take long thoughts and edit them down to something someone might read and remember, even if they weren’t paying attention to begin with.