How Big Should The Type Be In Your Advertising?

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is that I don’t know which half.” – John Wanamaker

One of the questions you will face when you review your direct-response advertising is “How large should the type be?” On the one hand, you want the type large enough so that the text can be read without a magnifying glass. On the other hand, you don’t want to cut good copy just to make the letters bigger.

As a general rule, I don’t like to ask prospects to peruse anything smaller than nine-point type. (I’m talking about text copy, not headlines.) If, with the copy at nine points, I find myself over by five percent to 10 percent, I go through the copy with a fine-tooth comb, culling out extra words and phrases. Even good copy that’s been edited three or four times often contains a small margin of waste.

But if the overage is greater than 10 percent, I do one of two things: buy more ad space or reduce the type size.

The reason is simple. Type size matters, but copy matters more. When it comes to selling your product or service, don’t sacrifice the sales pitch.

My preference, as I said, is to pay for a longer sales letter (10 pages instead of eight, for example) or a larger ad (a half-page instead of a quarter-page). But if I can’t justify the numbers when I calculate that extra cost into my marketing plan, I grit my teeth and decrease the type size.

Claude Hopkins, the legendary copywriter, put it this way in his magnum opus titled “Scientific Advertising”:

“Mail-order advertising is always set in small type. It is usually set in smaller type than ordinary print. That economy of space is universal. So it proves conclusively that larger type does not pay.

Remember that when you double your space by doubling the size of your type. The ad may still be profitable. But traced returns have proved that you’re paying a double price for sales. In mail-order advertising, there is no waste space. Every line is utilized. Borders are rarely used. Remember that when you are tempted to leave valuable space unoccupied.”

The key to making small type work is to make sure you have a dynamite headline (which HAS TO be large) and a strong lead. If you do that, your prospect will be motivated to make the extra effort to read the small stuff.

One trick you might try: Set the lead — the first few paragraphs (from the lead sentence through the first big promise) — in larger type and the rest in smaller type. The idea is that you make it easy for your prospect to read the lead and then he’s hooked.

[Ed. Note.  Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]