5 Steps to Better Web Copy

By Laura Salter on April 30, 2014

Although writing web content isn’t for everyone, having a grasp on some basic web writing principles is valuable. After all, web copy carries a message, and a good message complements great digital design. So why shouldn’t your copy be as sharp as possible?

Crafting great copy can be daunting, but the task is much easier if your writing is as tight and muscular as possible. Whether you’re starting from scratch or at the word-refining stage, some simple guidelines are useful to maintain cohesive and coherent messaging.

Write to the right audience

It’s impossible for anybody to latch onto a message unless it feels like it was meant for him or her. Having a deep understanding of audience perception is the difference between writing that simply gives information and writing that provides an experience. Though this may seem obvious, executing provocative copy for your audience takes research, ingenuity and practice.

Ask questions about every audience to give yourself a better grip on their perspective. What drives them? What are their needs? What do they want? How old are they? Do they have family? What’s their level of education? How can I help them and why should I? These types of questions give you different angles to help you write engaging copy that speaks to your audience in a fresh voice they recognize and enjoy.

Stay active at all times

Keep your copy healthy by writing in an active and clear voice. Although there is nothing technically wrong with the passive voice, it can weaken your message, become convoluted and can misconstrue meaning.

Active writing downplays unnecessary words and makes the action of each sentence clear, powerful and trustworthy. It also allows you to craft those important points that emphasize the value of your message in present and future situations.

Ex.

Passive: “Your online experience will be improved by responsive design.”

Active: “Responsive design improves your online experience.”

Don’t create doubt

When writing copy, stay away from words like may, wish, could, strive and try. Sentences that don’t create confidence instantly create hesitation and doubt in the reader’s mind. Don’t tell him or her what could happen if they deal with you—tell them what will happen.

Don’t allude to the possibility of a bad experience. Whether you’re pitching a concept, describing services or engaging new clientele, using direct and assertive messaging gives your reader no reason to believe you and your ideas aren’t the best option. Just make sure your work illustrates your message.

Stay tight, clear and to the point

Long-winded copy is a surefire way to lose readers fast. A lot of online copy may have tons of great information, but cutting through overused adjectives, confusing punctuation and redundant points will leave readers tired and uninterested.

Run your copy through an intense refining process: remove unnecessary words, read it aloud, combine similar ideas and show it to a few pairs of eyes. When it’s ready, each word should rely on one another and your sentences should look lean and powerful.

Highlight your strengths

Being objective is definitely a best practice, but all copy on the web is under subjective scrutiny. Don’t use broad generalizations when describing your work or your company. Cynical minds will find problems.

Use concrete statistics and tangible testimonials so readers can feel your substance when they read it. Target your strengths and provide information that illustrates them. Customer quotes, profit increases, awards and honorable mentions…Use the reasons your existing clients or users turn to you as bait for future business. You already know why you’re a good choice—why shouldn’t everyone else?

Laura Salter

Communications Strategist

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