January 6, 2010
While video and multimedia technologies are rapidly expanding, the Web remains a largely a text-oriented system. Text utilizes far less space than video or audio, and remains the go-to medium for the majority of the web’s public content. This means that there is a lot of copy on the web, so a savvy copywriter should be on the lookout for any technique that will improve the material he puts forward.
Tip 1 – Know Yourself
This piece of advice has been kicking around for several thousand years, and it has persisted for a reason – people make better decisions when they know their strengths and limits. If your writing lends itself to narrative structures, find ways to tell stories about the product, perhaps in the form of a testimonial or an interview. If you aren’t capable of writing technical articles, don’t try to bluff it.
Tip 2 – Improve Yourself
The web changes, language changes, people change, products change… in short, everything changes. This is a good thing. Improvement and training are important changes that everyone must go through in some degree if they want to remain relevant. You may want to consider enrolling in a writing course, study new SEO and copywriting tips, pick up a highly rated style manual, or continue refining your skills in some other way.
Tip 3 – Target Your Language to the Audience
There is always an audience. Whether writing a letter specifically to one individual or composing for a website to be viewed by international customers, take the time to find out who your audience is and tailor the writing accordingly. Academics will have different writing standards than a DIY auto repair services, and neither will appreciate receiving articles targeted to the other.
Tip 4 – Write Coherently
Compare the following two statements:
- The Large Hadron Collider, created and maintained by CERN in Geneva, is designed to locate and study the Higgs-Boson particle, which will provide insight into the origin of the universe.
- CERN intends to use the Large Hadron Collider to locate and study the Higgs-Boson particle in an attempt to gain insight into the origin of the universe.
The first sentence is full of asides and parenthetical statements while the second conveys the information more fluidly. There are times when asides and references are important, but as a general rule, take any opportunity you can to simplify your writing. Your message will be stronger and clearer for the effort.
Tip 5 – Write Specifically
Again, consider this ambiguous sentence; “Anti-nuclear protestors released live cockroaches inside the White House Friday, and these were arrested when they left and blocked a security gate.”
While it seems innocuous enough on the surface, this statement does illustrate the problem with ambiguous grammar. Good copywriting is precise and unambiguous. Here it comes across as funny, but if your customers aren’t coming to your site to laugh, go with a clearer example.
Tip 6 – Write Concisely
Strunk and White’s ‘The Elements of Style’ sums this up as ‘Omit needless words.’ Stick to short, clear paragraphs and sentences. Elaborate where needed, but focus on efficient writing that gets the message across without pointless extras.
Tip 7 – Start Strong
Journalism focuses on a technique known as the lede. In short, this is all the relevant detail of the story conveyed in one sentence, and it always comes at the start of the article. “A local man was arrested today in connection with the recent kidnapping of a foreign exchange student.” Notice it doesn’t give names or quotes, just the hard-core facts. While online copywriting rarely needs to emulate this exact approach, it still illustrates a key point; good articles present their best facts quickly while hooking the reader.
Tip 8 – End Strong
There are countless examples of writing that start out with the proverbial ‘bang,’ only to wander off pointlessly. Focus your writing on its key message and make sure the final statement is as strong as the first. Write your beginning statement and ending statement at the same time and make sure the article is always leading toward that killer end sentence that ties the article up in a powerful way.
Tip 9 – Read
While this partially falls under the idea of improving yourself, it’s also a specific example that deserves its own mention. Read constantly. Read good articles and bad, seeing what works and what does not. People who are widely read write better than comparable writers who don’t read as much.
Tip 10 – Write Constantly
Copywriting is a talent like any other. Daily practice with writing will expand your ability to try new ideas and reinforce good habits. Even if you have no copywriting assignment at the moment, browse the web looking for websites in your area of expertise, and see if you can’t improve their copy. Then you can either consider it free practice, or perhaps give the authors a call to see if they’re interested.
Enzo F. Cesario is a Copywriter and co-founder of Brandsplat. Brandcasting uses informative content and state-of-the-art internet distribution and optimization to build links and drive the right kind of traffic to your website. Go to http://www.Brandsplat.com/ or visit our blog at: http://www.brandsplatblog.com/