Web Copywriting 102 – 9 Tips for Making Prose Pop
You’re a good writer… but are you a good web writer? If you want your content to resonate, it’s very important to be both.
We’ve gone over bucket brigades and grease-slides—which are neither Keystone cop routines nor disgusting viral challenges on Youtube but format tricks used to make your users keep reading. So now let’s look at words within the formatting and how to make that perfect prose pop with persuasion.
Tip #1 – Stay Active
No, this isn’t a push to go to gym over lunch breaks or get one of those standing desks (though both have their advantages with swimsuit season around the corner). You want to keep your writing in the active tense rather than the past tense.
Tip #2 – Use Plenty Of White Space
You know what people think when they see a large, daunting block of solid text? Textbooks. And no one likes reading textbooks. Break up your paragraphs into small, easily digested segments for easier skimming.
Tip #3 – Be Conversational
There’s a hilarious Youtube video (you can watch it here) that shows what it would be like if news reporters talked in real life like they do on air. Long story short, the word choices, format, intonation, etc. don’t do much towards making the talk conversational. In the same vein, don’t feel like you have to write your web copy like a press release. Write as if you were speaking directly to your user one on one because, in a sense, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Besides… no one likes reading press releases.
Tip #4 – Don’t Bury The Lead
We’ll follow that journalism example above with another journalism touchstone: get the important details out there fast. Spend too long in your intro, and users will get bored and move on to something else.
Tip #5 – Use Short Words
Yes, yes, we all are impressed that you can correctly spell unambiguously, but fill your copy with words like that and you’ll be left with a fraction of your reading audience. Use short, everyday words, and keep your sentences concise. For example, no one says something is “superior”, they say something is “best”. You know Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory? Don’t sound like Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. Write smart, but write simple. People will trust you more.
Tip #6 – Use Story and Emotion
People can’t resist a good story, and once their emotions are engaged, good luck tearing them away. Funny anecdotes, touching personal stories, historical examples—whatever can help illustrate your point will help retain your audience.
Tip #7 – Spellcheck
This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s also very important.
Tip #8 – Build a Customer
Take what you know about your optimal customer demographic—gender, age, income, education, etc. Then build a composite of that person. Give him or her a name. A specific occupation. Number of kids. Salary. Pick a stock photo from online to put a face to the info. Then, when you write, write to that person specifically. Write as if they are sitting across from you, listening to every word. Remember, customers don’t trust businesses, they trust people. So be more of a person by seeing them as more of a person.
Tip #9 – Use Specifics
Making a list of, say, the top nine ways to improve your writing style? Include that number in your title! People love specifics—it helps guide expectations, and we’re naturally drawn to lists. Vague headers and writing push people away… they want the facts, so give them the facts.
We’ll look into more ways to improve your website copy, but for now, concentrate on the nine tips above. If any one of them can help, then your website is already better today than it was yesterday.
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