The rules of harmony or rhythm do not cease with the form and arrangement of advertising space and matter. After the eye has been directed to the advertisement, it is necessary to use every means possible to hold the attention until the story has been told. Our natures crave rhythm, and when the written “copy” corresponds to our feelings in this respect we respond to the argument and willingly accord it our attention.
To obtain the highest efficiency in the written -advertisement two important facts should be kept in mind:
1. Our attention is best employed when a period of thinking is followed by a period of mental rest. Neither period should be too long, for that would produce mental exhaustion; nor too short, for that distracts the attention. The balancing of these two factors produces rhythm and aids the thinking process.
2. The sentence is the unit of thought, and hence its structure and nature determine the rhythm of the composition. By structure is meant the number of words and the grammatical relations of its parts. By nature is meant the character of its predication.
It is not generally known that the sentences of experienced writers will average about the same number of words throughout their productions. Likewise will the number of predications per sentence run about the same. A test made of Macaulay’s “History of England” showed that the author used on the average 23.43 words and 2.30 predications per sentence and that there was an average of 34 simple sentences to each one-hundred sentences. Investigations have also shown that there is a very decided tendency toward the use of simple sentences having few predications and fewer words.
The Greek and Roman orators made frequent use of sixty or more words in a single sentence. Cicero has been credited with producing a single sentence of 124 words. Examples of the best writings of today indicate that about 25 words is the average number necessary to produce the best conditions for holding the attention of the reader. This does not mean that every sentence in the advertisement should be just about 25 words long, but is simply a caution against the use of long and involved sentences or the opposite-the use of the too short and choppy sentence, which loses the attention-by affording too frequent opportunity for the distraction of the reader’s thoughts.
Although the observance of the principle pertaining to balance and unity is essential to all advertisement writing, it is of special importance in advertisements requiring the writing of many pages. It then assumes the dignity of a pleasing literary style, and a further discussion of principles and applications would involve the whole subject of the psychology of reading. The technical arrangement of the advertising space, the subdivisions of the space into parts, the composition of the various colors and of the written sentence, gain in effect if each feature is carried out in accordance with the principles of rhythm. These are commonly designated proportion, symmetry, tone and balance.
Remember then, that an advertisement cannot claim more than a few moments of the reader’s time, so make the words count in that short time frame.