Five ways to write copy that doesn’t suck!


How many times have I been called in to pump up the effectiveness of either an existing blog piece or website content, to see the first problem is that “The King’s English” hasn’t been used. Why do I describe language like that? Simple. That’s exactly what my public school primary teacher used to say to myself, and my fellow pupils, encouraging us to communicate with effect – along the lines of: “Don’t waffle, boy, get to the point.” He obviously knew he was instructing future web content writers.

15 years of industry experience later, his words are still concrete. So much so, I often recall his message when I’m contacted to write a blog piece of key worded web copy – well, that and a few other bits and pieces I’ve picked up on the way.

Here’s a checklist that might help you craft stronger copy:

1. The first thing you need to do is stop. Don’t type. Think. Prepare in your head what messages you are going to send to your typing fingers, and how efficient your communication can be. In order: who you are, what you do, and what you can do for your prospective customer, is the usual format for websites; not too disimiliar from what that teacher taught us: intro, story, conclusion. Then, as Siimon Reynolds (shameless name dropper, me) once drilled into my writer’s mind: “Juice it up!” Meaning, why not insert a powerful headline/subs, facts, funny observations or freak-out snippets that can make the message more engaging?

2. Write tight. If you are writing along the lines of: “The dog was being chased by the boy,” it’s more efficient if you say, “The boy chased the dog.” Always subject actioning the noun – it’s quicker to write, read and understand.

3. Craft efficient sentences. Limit these to 30 words, or less. Try, also, to insert commas within 15 words. Yes, commas, semi-colons and dashs have to conform to the laws of punctuation, however they also provide a breather for your reader, and a nano-second for your message to sink in.

4. Paragraphs should also be finessed – three or four sentences. Think of them as an episode of a soap opera, with the sentences telling the story of that half hour soapy. Next paragraph should have a new story to tell.

5. Headlines and sub heads should get attention. Seven words, or less, is the old rule-of-thumb. They should direct viewer traffic to the subject of your message – and if entertaining, then all the better. So try to be as punchy as possible, with relevance to the copy. However, don’t be too cute. Only employ clever humour, as readers want information, not silliness.

Now, aside from proofreading like crazy and editing your copy to waffle-free statues, you’re all set to go. And, if you’re writing website copy, remember to write about the web product’s benefits… not features. After all, web visitors are shopping for a solution, and what’s in it for them. Those that know data well, reckon you’ll have a maximum of five seconds to ‘capture’ each website visitor before they ‘bounce’ to your opposition. So, focus, write tight, engaging copy, and your successful content will be king.

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