Good writing is like good music: it’s transparent. You connect with it and understand the message without any effort other than using your eyes.
It’s when your eyes get stuck that a problem arises. When you look at a website, how often do you:
- Skip reading because the paragraphs are too long?
- Get confused because the site offers too many options?
- Not know where you’re supposed to go next?
- Click off because it’s just too much effort?
A marriage of the right words, good design, and easy navigation solves many of these problems. Here are my five top tips for writing better web copy:
- Keep it short. After you write a first draft, cut it in half, then cut it again. People don’t like reading “below the fold” so don’t make them scroll (or at least, not much).
- Think “What next?” Most of the time, people will take the easy track. On each web page, tell them what to do next and provide links. Anticipate what visitors will need to get information and then make it easy for them.
- Avoid jargon and nix the acronyms. If your copy needs a glossary, you’ve got work to do. Don’t assume visitors will stick with you long enough to figure things out. They won’t!
- Use simple words. Write to communicate, not to impress. Clean, concise copy is so rare online that your visitors will see it as a breath of fresh air. If you have to read it twice to understand it, it’s too complex.
- Make it “scannable.” If people want to read, they open a book. People first want to scan websites to see if you have what they need. Only then will they drill down to the exact information they’re seeking. Use bullets, small blocks of text, boldface, and other creative ways of chunking out text.
Here are some samples – incriminating names removed – of text I found online, along with my quick rewrites. To really understand the difference between the two, read each aloud. (OK, so there’s tip #6 – Read your copy out loud!)
|In order that there may be no doubt as to which is the top and which is the bottom, for storage purposes it will be seen that the bottom of each package has been labeled with the word TOP.||Clearly label the top of each package.|
|Our Hand Screw and Bar Clamps are trusted friends of the woodworker for many years of use and immediately recognizable as a quality tool.||Woodworkers have long trusted the quality and durability of our hand screw and bar clamps.|
|In order to obtain the maximum benefit from the application, you need to have obtained the necessary license key as a paid user, which lets you gain access to the advanced features of the software.||Get a license key to use advanced features.|
Does your web content need a makeover? Contact Joy Underhill at www.wordsbyjoy.com, 585-742-1388.