Six Reasons to Abolish Abbreviations in Real Estate Advertising

To Abbreviate or Not Abbreviate, That is the Question.

 ‘The Age’ advertisements 1989

When real estate ads were all on print media – The Age, The Leader Paper, The Melbourne Weekly, for generations, there was a special code of abbreviations that we grew to understand. Most agents would budget 20 lines for the copy for an ad in The Age. There would be one line for the address, one line for the auction date/time, one line for the open for inspection, a heading line, 5 lines of copy like below, a price range, 2 lines of copy for 2 agents’ names and phone numbers, 5-6 lines for the company logo and 2 lines for the company address and phone number, and maybe, a line of space somewhere to accentuate the ad slightly or their website as we started introducing websites to our details.


BENTLEIGH EAST        67 Parkmore Road

AUCT SAT 5th SEPT at 2.30PM



On 680sqm with ROW, this delightful 3 BR
 2 bthrm DF WB home feats a lge lnge (OFP),
 sunny din rm, mod kit (ss appls, DW), sep
 fam rm, big grdn, wwcarps, pol boards,
 duct htg, A/C, BIRs and 2 OSP in a DLUG.


AH Peter Smith 0400 000 000

Sally Smith 0401 123 456


161 Centre Road Bentleigh

Ph: 9555 1345          Fax: 9555 1245


So now we have stepped away from print media, for the most part, who can actually read what has been said above? It reads:

On 680 square metres with right of way, this delightful 3 bedroom 2 bathroom double fronted weatherboard home features a large lounge (open fireplace), sunny dining room, modern kitchen (stainless steel appliances, dishwasher), separate family room, big garden, wall to wall carpets, polished boards, ducted heating, air conditioning, built in robes and 2 off street parking spaces in the double lock up garage.

The abbreviated copy it’s 209 characters, the unabbreviated copy is 411 characters, meaning that it would have cost the owner an extra 5 lines of copy, which, when I was working at The Age back in the mid 1990s, it would have cost them an extra $33 an advertisement, and most did a 4 week campaign, so it would have been an extra $132 to their campaign. The question would be, did they miss a whole potential buyer pool or someone who was prepared to pay more, because they couldn’t read the abbreviated ad… all for the sake of $132?

With the onset of internet advertising, abbreviations started to become obsolete, however some still sneak in… BIRs (built in robes), WIR (walk in robe), OFP (open fireplace), sqm (square metres) and even STCA (Subject to Council Approval).  What you will find, old school agents who write their own ads, will continue to put abbreviations into their copy. Young property managers who may have been taught by older agents and like to SMS or tweet on Twitter in abbreviated form, will often put abbreviations into their copy. But, the reality is, abbreviations do not help prospective buyers or prospective tenants who don’t do real estate every day.

At Real Copy Right, we help those who have a basic understanding of real estate advertising. Some will think there is a special ‘code’…. Like ‘renovator’s delight’ means it needs to be pulled down. Or ‘cosy’ means small, words that we refuse to write. And there are some words that are no longer or are rarely used in Australian English that pertain to real estate – right of way, water closet, larder, easement, even wall to wall carpets (when is carpet ever not ‘wall to wall?’)

Here are some 6 reasons why you should choose a copywriter who understands the importance to spell out your copy:

  1. English as a Second Language. If you come to Australia with a foreign language and minimal English skills and you’re looking for a home, if you are using Google Translate or other translating software, it won’t detect abbreviations, adding to the confusion of the copy. And remember, some of those new immigrants have a huge amount of money to spend.
  2. Lost in translation. Abbreviations get lost in translation, and stagger the reader’s eye, making them lose interest quickly, ready to move onto the next property that they DO understand.
  3. New to real estate. We need to write copy in easy-to-understand heart-pulling language that create an attraction for those who have never bought or rented property before.
  4. It’s a generational thing. Some 20 somethings wouldn’t know what a rumpus room is let alone know a vestibule or what weatherboard means. Some 70 year olds wouldn’t know what a mudroom is let alone hybrid floors (they would love both, but wouldn’t know what they are). You need to put the copy in context, abbreviating words removes any context.
  5. Concise and effective. A clever copywriter will have creative ways to reduced copy without losing context and meaning, targeting the right elements of a property to attract busy buyers and tenants.
  6. Time poor. Most buyers and tenants are time poor. They are not going to be reading all the ad in the first instance (they will after they inspect the property). They will move onto the next ad if it doesn’t make sense to them. Don’t create a negative emotion in your buyer, create a positive reaction which enables them to want to inspect your property.

Numbers and symbols

While some agents prefer to write out their numbers and symbols:

four bedroom plus study, two bathroom home 

to make their copy look more like a ‘story’ than an ad, effective copywriting will use numbers to draw attention to the key points of the property, what we call the ‘qualifying information.’ It is much easier for a reader to read:

4 bedroom + study 2 bathroom home

Especially, when it is crowded by other ads of similar properties, other information about the property or real estate agent self-promotion. A buyer’s eye will quickly be attracted to or dismiss the property based on its qualifying information, knowing if their needs are met, or not, choosing to read on or move onto the next. As much as agents are relying on ‘icons’ on their boards, brochures and internet ads, the reality is, icons only tell half the story. Icons need to be whole numbers (no + symbols or .5), so if a family is looking for a 4 bedroom + study home – a bedroom for each of the kids, a bedroom for mum and dad and a study for a home business, they may dismiss a property if they are only looking at the icons, because the home, in the first instance, doesn’t qualify for their needs. That is why, at Real Copy Right, you will always find how many bedrooms, a study and the bathroom information for the property in the opening line of our copy.

At Real Copy Right, we are conscious of what it takes to create a great ad, if you have a corporate template or not. It’s all about readability and empathy for the reader, as well as conveying the correct and informative message to help the property owner market their property. We want to make it an easy experience for the end user, and a successful ad for the property owner. Abbreviations no longer have a place in real estate advertisements, and we are pleased to deliver copy that brings out the best in every property.

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Contact Lisa: (03) 5977 8889 or email: