When you’re writing for the web, there’s a few rules most good copywriters follow. Here’s 8 of them:
- Keep it short. Shorter sentences keep your copy dynamic. Take some virtual scissors to your writing and your readers will thank you for it.Try to limit the use of two sentences joined together by commas, and, which, that, while, whereas, etc. Your message is always made clearer by keeping sentences short and sweet. But don’t go crazy – remember to mix up sentence lengths to give your copy rhythm. Read on to see this rule in action!
- Know your audience. It’s impossible to target everyone with your writing every time. It’s much better to take a long, hard think about who your key readers are and write your copy for them. Do some market research, take a survey, know your customers – you could even work up a full personality profile of their wants and needs complete with a picture before you start. Then prop it up somewhere you can see it easily while you type and pretend you’re having a nice, friendly conversation with that person. You’ll discover the words just flow when you stop trying to please all the people all the time.
- Eradicate No. This is copywriting’s cardinal rule. Even if what you’re saying is essentially positive, using words like ‘no,’ ‘never,’ ‘nothing’ and ‘not’ has a subtle effect on your reader’s brain that always works against your message. It’s easy to make sure you keep negatives out of the picture. Almost every negative sentence can be written from a positive perspective – for example, Don’t be negative. Always be positive.
- Give me one reason to love it. Everyone wants information fast in this snippet-driven world. Chances are they won’t read past your headline. So you’ve got to make every word count. Again, keep it short, sharp and to the point. Focus on a benefit to the reader. Pose a provocative question or offer useful information. Basically, ask a question they can say, “YES!” to. The aim is to pique their desire to know more.
- 5 simple questions for great copy. You’ve only got a few seconds to grab the reader’s attention, particularly on the web. If they’ve made it past your headline, you can keep them hooked by getting to the point faster.How? By answering these 5 fail proof questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? For media releases and online writing you’ll really need to answer all 5 questions in the first paragraph. You can then expand on your story/key messages in the following paragraphs. Gather your information, plan out the structure of your writing piece, then practice answering these questions in one to two sentences tops.
- Break it up. FACT: Web users skim across the surface of copy all the time. Grab their attention and keep it by breaking up your paragraphs with headings, single sentence paragraphs and bullet points. Bold important messages – even when skimming your reader’s eye will be immediately drawn to darker text. Use bullet points or numbers liberally and you’ll be sure to get your key messages across before a user clicks to another page.
- Tell me a story. Human brains love stories! We create them every day. We dream about them every night. Tell a compelling story and your reader will follow you to the end of your message. How? Always take your reader on a journey. Plan out your writing so it follows a natural flow – set the scene, introduce characters, show conflict, build anticipation, and end beautifully with a pithy lesson learned or benefit gained. This is as true for a sales brochure as it is for a novel. More importantly, keep it personal. Build a connection with the reader through the use of ‘you’ and ‘I,’ ‘we’ and ‘our.’ That way you draw your reader into your tale.
- Read it out loud. Then read it to a friend. Reading what you’ve written out loud helps make your writing more personal and authentic. If it doesn’t sound like your natural speech your reader will lose interest fast. This is particularly true of writing for the web. Surfing the net is generally a more relaxed occupation – nobody wants to be lectured or read an encyclopaedia. The best web writing engages in a one on one dialogue with each reader, drawing them in and holding their attention.