What makes good copy?

In your website messaging, be obvious with what you do, the value your services add and what differentiates you from your competitors.

By George Haddon-Hartle

How your website reads to people makes an enormous difference in how they perceive your company and how they behave.

But it can difficult to know what makes good writing on a website. We’re here to help.

 

01

Online is different

The language and structure of writing online is very different to that of writing in print. This is mostly down to the way that people read on digital screens: they scan the page, looking for key pieces of information. They don’t have time for long, wordy sentences or the desire to process complex words. People online are lazy.

Many people that are excellent offline writers also believe that they are able to write the same way online. This just isn’t true. Copy must adapt to the environment it finds itself in. If you write the copy for your website how you would for a print magazine, chances are people are not going to be engaged with your content and they’ll quickly disappear from your website.

The purpose of all copy should be to keep the person reading. Every word needs to make them want to read the next.

02

Short is best

When it comes to online, people like short things the best. They like short words. Snappy sentences. Paragraphs. Sections. It makes it easier to take in the information you’re giving to them. It also lets them scan the text for things that are relevant to their needs. For this reason all of your copy should be organised under headings and subheadings.

Short doesn’t mean simple or lacking information either. All of your copy should aim to provide people with all of the information they need in the shortest way possible. As a general rule of thumb, if you can say something with one word instead of two that is what you should do.

03

Mind your language

Language is a big factor in successful online copy. It’s about achieving the right balance between authoritative, knowledgeable, friendly, and at times sales language. And consistency in your language use is key. An easy way to make sure all of your copy is similar in its language is to develop a tone of voice for your company. This will help inform your copy because you’ll be able to think, “does this match the company tone of voice?”

Your language should also reflect your audience. For example, if you sell fashionable clothes and your target markets are teenagers and young adults then your copy should reflect that. You’d be using informal, personal language that should excite and empower your readers!
On the other hand, if you sell outdoor clothing and your audience is hikers and mountaineers, your language would be different. You’d want to explain what the features and benefits of your products were, using language that reassured people about the quality of your clothing.

Each audience is different and wants different things. The copy should reflect this.

04

Cut out the jargon and exaggeration

Nothing turns readers off more than a bunch of business or technical jargon, alongside a big helping of exaggeration. When people see this stuff alarm bells start ringing in their heads – no straightforward, trustworthy company would be using language like this!

You should steer very clear of all jargon-looking words. Try and explain it in simple terms so people understand what you mean.

Don’t make huge claims about your business or product. Use facts and solid information. That isn’t to say you can’t celebrate any success or awards – just don’t overdo it.

05

Be in the moment

Good online writing is written in the active voice, not passive. The active voice is less cumbersome for readers and also reduces the amount of words needed to say something.

  • ‘The enemy was defeated by our troops’ would turn into ‘our troops defeated the enemy’
  • ‘Caesar was stabbed by Brutus’ becomes ‘Brutus stabbed Caesar’
  • ‘The ball was thrown’ becomes ‘John threw the ball’.

As you can see, when transformed into the active voice the language is more direct. And direct language is what you want when you are speaking to people through the copy on your website.

Summary

From the actual wording to the tone of voice, keep these points in mind when you’re writing your online copy to better communicate with your audience. For some examples of good copy why not visit our porfolio?
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About the Author

George is a CSS Ninja. This means he can build anything to be pixel perfect to the design. George is in the records books for having the longest name in known history and also likes Pi. It takes approximately 3.142 years to type his email address.

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