These 5 Tips Will Make Your Writing Shine

This week, I thought it would be great to blog about web copywriting.

Web copywriting is often overlooked when it comes to revamping or designing a website.

I was super pleased when I met up with someone last Thursday (a prospective client who will remain unnamed as it is not yet time to reveal details) who told me that she believed in a content-driven website.

I was almost jumping out of my seat with glee.

In my years of meeting people/clients/prospects, most of them have been clueless about websites.

Poor old ‘copy’ or content/text/copywriting (which irks me to no end when someone writes ‘copyrighting’ – hello, get your facts right please. It’s just like ‘deadline’ and ‘dateline’. Both are totally different OK?) is relegated to positions of such unimportance on the website.

Actually copy is very important. In fact, far more important than the spiffy visuals or graphics on the website.

Words do matter and words do make or break your website. The right words help you persuade.

The right words break down resistance.

The wrong words turn away visitors.

If you cannot write a sentence to save your life and if you are going to revamp your website, please pay a copywriter to help you get the content in order.

Because if someone visits your website, you’d better make it worth their while.

You have less than 10 seconds to prove to them your website is worth a read (and worth hanging about).

So here are some ideas if you are stuck for ideas for content on your website. Failing that, turn the job over to a real copywriter.

1. Details, please

Whenever you can, go for specifics and details. Specific words target emotions. For instance, which conjures better in your mind? “A lot of people” versus “3,241 people”? Also, if you are bolstering an argument, a specific fact always wins hands down compared to some generality.

Detail-infused writing helps your customers imagine and ‘see’ it in their mind.

Example: “Gorgeous fuchsia-coloured bouganvilleas, fragrant frangipanis and other tropical shrubs attract chirping birds in the evenings giving you a closer look at our Langkawi wildlife! Beyond the pool are golden paddy fields (when the paddy is ready to be harvested) and a small hill of the deepest jade.”

2. Put your customer first

The ‘you’ rule rules, especially online. (Actually it rules offline too. I want an advertisement, a brochure or a flyer to speak to me directly.)

Tell your customer/reader what’s in it for him. Address him.

Example: “If you’re inexperienced or new to horses, we’ll help you enjoy your horseback experience. If you’re an expert, we have some breathtaking and challenging riding trails for you too.”

versus

“If guests are inexperienced or new to horses, they can still enjoy their horseback experience. If they are experts, they can try out some breathtaking and challenging riding trails too.”

Which paragraph reads better and makes you feel like you’re part of the conversation?

 

3. Use active over passive

Remember your high school grammar? Active and passive voice? It’s time to revisit and remember that active voice rules. The active voice is a major component of attractive and emotional copy. This gets the reader involved as it is more direct and to the point.

An active voice: “The artist drew a beautiful picture.”

Here’s a passive voice:”The beautiful picture was drawn by the artist.”

Sentences in the active voice are more concise because fewer words are needed to express action. It is not just more succinct but the point gets across faster. The passive voice is often more wordy!

When you use active voice, your meaning is clearer. If you use too many passive voice sentences, your meaning can be vague, wishy-washy or even lost.

4. Tenses matter

The correct selection of tenses makes a lot of difference in copy.

Present tense has the power of immediacy compared to past tense. Sometimes though you will need to decide judiciously which tenses to use.

For example, present perfect tense in this case — “Her writing has had a profound effect on us” is much better compared to “Her writing had a profound effect on us”. “Has had” in this case is far more dynamic.

For a refresher on tenses, check this http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/present-tense

5. Boot out cliches

Everyone’s done it before. Even I have sometimes used cliches (my bad!). While cliches are useful, they can suck the colour right out of your words and make them lose impact.

If you catch yourself using a cliche, remove it and replace with something original.

In case you want a quick refresher, cliches are over-used expressions which are easy to pick up and use but really aren’t helpful at all. Much like junk food I’d say.

Some clichés include:

  • As old as the hills: This describes someone very old
  • Fit as a fiddle: This describes someone in great shape
  • Without a care in the world: This describes someone who is not plagued by problems or worries
  • All is fair in love and war: This cliché stands for the premise that you can do whatever you have to in order to capture the heart of your lover
  • All’s well that ends well: This means that even if there were problems along the way, it doesn’t matter as long as there is a happy ending
  • Every cloud has a silver lining: This means that even when bad things happen, it may be possible to find some good in them

If you catch yourself writing with overused cliches, it’s time to re-write!

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