Winning Words for Web SitesA lot of attention is paid to designing websites. The graphics, the branding, and the java scripts – all go to give a site a professional and polished appearance. Then you b...
Winning Words for Web Sites
A lot of attention is paid to designing websites. The graphics, the branding, and the java scripts – all go to give a site a professional and polished appearance. Then you begin to read the text. The first typo you ignore. The second is annoying, then a sentence is so poorly constructed you can’t make out what it means. No matter how pretty the site, looks, if it doesn’t read well you’ll lose business.
Writing copy, like designing graphics, is a skill in its own right. You wouldn’t ask a chef to fix your car, or a mechanic to cook your meal, so why expect graphics, computer or business experts to write your text?
Good text is concise and easy to understand. Here are some principles to show you how to evaluate a well-written site:
KEEP IT SHORT – Most words are used to join other words together, therefore the fewer of them you use to communicate your message, the more likely it is to be read. After all the computer screen is 75% less efficient as a reading medium than paper. A copywriter will often write more words than is needed in the first draft, The second or third drafts are produced rearranging phrases to weed out unnecessary words.
KEEP IT SIMPLE – Some people think that using big words and lots of jargon demonstrate intelligence. Usually it demonstrates a total lack of empathy with the reader. You need to be sensitive to how people take in information. The more three-syllable words you use, the more complex the writing will be, even if the words are in normal everyday use.
KEEP IT FLOWING – When people write long, rambling sentences, with multiple clauses, and especially when they pepper the writing with complex words and irrelevant side issues, sentences become so complicated, even to the most sophisticated of readers or minds and sometimes to the writers themselves, that is almost impossible to ascertain the meaning – just like this sentence in fact! Sentences of between 11 and 20 words on average work well. But the length needs to be varies, so that the writing flows.
KEEP IT ALIVE - Lively writing is interesting. To write in a lively way you have to use the article rather than the passive voice most of the time. So rather than “Your contract will be handled by our customer services representative” you would write, “Our customer services representative will handle your contract”. You will notice than in the active voice, the sentence is shorter. This is one of the simplest ways to reduce the number of words you use to express a concept.
KEEP IT CLEAR – You can change the meaning of a sentence completely by the use of one or two commas. Take the commas out of this sentence and see how the meaning changes: “Tinkerbell, says Peter, is a fairy.”
Punctuation should be there to help the reader understand a phrase. Unfortunately, many writers, because they write the way they speak, assume their readers will understand. But you have to help your readers understand using good (and correct) punctuation.
KEEP IT ACCURATE – The services of a good proofreader are essential. Never, ever, proofread your own work – you’re bound to read what you thought, not what you wrote.
There’s a good general rule for writing, 40% of the work should be in planning, 20% in writing and 40% in editing. By observing this and the other principles above, your writing should be clear and easy to read, However, if you’re not a trained and experience copywriter, get the help of a professional for your website. Once you’re committed to publication you are potentially under scrutiny from several million readers.
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