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How Can You Make Your Web Copy Readable?

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Once you’ve written your copy, it is vital that you pay attention to how readable that copy is.  Short sentences and simple words make your copy more inviting. 

They also help to cut up huge blocks of text into bite-size paragraphs that are no more than three or four sentences each.

Microsoft Word has a tool that displays information about the reading level of the document, including readability scores. 

It rates text on a 100-point scale; the higher the score, the easier it is for people to understand your writing. 

Aim for a score of 70 or higher. It also rates your writing on a U.S. grade-school level.  For example, a score of 7.0 means that a seventh grader can understand the document.

When writing copy, aim for a score of seventh-or eighth-grade-level comprehension.

Words to Avoid in Your Web Copy
You already know that you should avoid using intellectual, rational, or right-brained words, opting instead for emotional words, but there are other categories of words you must avoid using.

Don’t use euphemisms (more agreeable or more politically correct words and expressions) in an effort to avoid words that may offend or suggest something unpleasant.

Doing so will insult the intelligence of your audience. While you think you are trying to spare your readers’ feelings and sensibilities, using euphemisms may backfire and cause readers to be more offended than if you had just been straightforward. 

For example, don’t call overweight people “metabolically challenged” or people who suffer from hair loss “follicularly challenged” or poor people “economic underachievers.” 

People see through these euphemisms and may think you are actually condescending.

Don’t use buzzwords (important-sounding words or phrases used primarily to impress laypersons) if the buzzwords don’t play an integral part in your selling proposition. 

In other words, don’t use buzzwords just to show people that you’re cool, that you’re hip to modern lingo, or to impress them with your vocabulary. 

Some examples currently in use include proactive, downsizing, supersize, outsourcing, actionable, and impact used as a verb (as in “impact your business”).

Buzzwords sometimes alienate people who don’t understand what you are talking about.  They may also make you sound pompous or pretentious. 

Even worse, you may be using words that have gone hopelessly out of style (without your knowing it), which makes you appear so twentieth century.

Don’t use corporate speak.  The way you write web copy is distinctly different from the way you would write a corporate communication or even a literary or journalistic work. 

You’re not going to win any literary awards for writing excellent web copy, but you are going to win sales.

You may pride yourself on writing flowery prose or businesslike correspondence, but those things don’t cut it in web copy. 

For instance, the words, “We are committed to your success,” don’t mean anything to people anymore.  It’s tired, it’s boring, and it doesn’t convey tangible benefits.

Don’t use clichés.  I believe the avoidance of clichés applies to all genres of writing.  They diminish the value of your writing. 

Clichés make your writing look terribly dated, which in turn may affect how your readers view your offer. 

If you are behind the times, what does that say about your product or service?
Don’t use tentative adjectives. 

These are words like pretty as in ‘pretty good,” very as in “very impressive,” or quite as in “quite wonderful.”  Such words rob your writing of conviction. 

You must either drop the word altogether and simplify your sentence, or replace the word with a compelling one that dramatizes the thought you are trying to communicate.

Do communicate. We’ve all heard the Internet referred to as the information superhighway. 

In fact, it’s practically a cliché.  But information is distinctly different from communication. 

The Internet is filled with people who can inundate you with all kinds of information; the person who has the ability to communicate is the one who will rise above the clutter and the noise–and actually be heard or read.

Author Sidney J. Harris once said, “The two words ‘inforniation’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things.  Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” 

In marketing, you want to use words that communicate, words that will create interest, trigger enthusiasm, and motivate people to action.  Words that will “get through.”
How do you attempt to make your web cop readable?

How do you control yourself in word selection and word economy while writing copywriting?


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