How Long Should Email Copy Be?

How Long Should Email Copy Be?

What Studies Say About Email Length

Clients often ask me, how long is too long for email copy?  How long should email copy be?

The average amount of time someone spends reading an email varies based on what report you read. Studies show somewhere between 6 and 11 seconds. Litmus did a study in 2016, finding people were spending more time (11 seconds on average) reading emails than in the past. Campaign Monitor’s 2018 data says 8 seconds.

The type of email sent is also going to have an impact on how long someone spends reading. Did your list sign up for a content-based newsletter? Then your email is opened with an expectation to spend time reading. Your time is more generous. Did your list sign up for discounts and product launches? Expect to have less time to get the point across.

Here’s a quick test to perform on your email

Open some of your emails. Set a timer. Read the email aloud for 11 seconds. How far did you get? Did you get to the meat of the email? If you did and you caught your reader’s attention and drew them in, longer copy may work. If you didn’t, chances are your message was closed before it got the point across.

Design Tips to get more across with less time

Remember, the 6-11 seconds figures are an average of all readers and all types of messages.  Some will spend more, some less.  You want to grab you reader’s attention in a few seconds, but it is okay to have more supporting copy for those who will read more.

There are many ways to get your message across quickly:

  • Use headlines and images to break the email into sections that are easy to digest. This works especially well in newsletters where it becomes easy to see all the articles covered and then make a decision to read further on certain topics. Recipients don’t need to read every word in those 11 seconds. They can scan and read the headlines first.

  • Make sure your subject line and preview text are leveraged to convey what your email is really about. This helps draws in your reader before the email is opened. It is also important to do this in the US for compliance reasons.

  • If your message is time-bound call that out early. Example, “Ends tonight!”

  • Use a top-heavy pyramid if you are going to write in a letter format. Put the most important information is up top.  The information further down supports your message, but is not critical. If someone stopped reading, they still grasped the key message.