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Web Copy Dos And Don’ts

102 Comments · Web Copy

Do strive to write in a conversational style–one person talking to another person. The more friendly and approachable, the better.

Do use contractions. 
When people talk, they use many contractions. Using contractions helps you sound like you are just one person talking to another. 

It’s intimate, and it increases readership.  Use “I’ve” instead of “I have,” “it’s” instead of “it is,” “we’ll” instead of “we will.”

Do use common colloquialisms. 
A colloquialism is an informal, often entertaining word or phrase used in everyday conversation. 

When you use colloquialisms, you draw your reader closer because you appear more familiar, more friendly, more up close and personal instead of distant and at arm’s length.

Use colloquialisms that are understandable to most people with a reasonable familiarity with the English language. 

Some colloquialisms that have found their way to mainstream online communications include:

dough   money
laid-back  calm and relaxed
make waves  cause trouble
bent out of shape become upset
come up for air take a break
cool   great
defect   glitch
twenty grand  $20,000
keep your cool  remain calm
blown away  greatly impressed
megabucks  a lot of money
blow a fuse  lose your temper
bummed  depressed
con   deceive
has deep pockets has a good source of money
glitzy   ashionable
honcho   boss
get a kick out of enjoy

Avoid using colloquialisms that may cause misunderstandings.  Because the Internet is international, some colloquialisms such as “table a proposal” (postpone the discussions of the presentation bombed” (the presentation was a complete failure), which are generally understood by Americans, may mean something that’s nearly the opposite to non Americans.

Don’t use corporatespeak. 
Corporatespeak is jargon commonly used in the business world that often communicates very little to anyone outside a particular industry.  I call it on poratic babble that businespeople use to sound important.

Consider the following two examples written for a fictitious online business called My Web Store:

1. My Web Store is an e-commerce solutions provider committed to helping people leverage the power of technology to create value-added, win-win cyberspaces that impact global retail markets.

2. My Web Store is a first-of-its-kind form of e-commerce that enables anyone to open a 24/7 online store in as little as 5 minutes-for just $1 a day.

Which statement are web visitors more likely understand?  The second, of course.  The first employs highfalutin corporatespeak instead of clear, straightforward words and phrases that people can understand. 

Even if you read it several times, you’d still be wondering what it’s trying to say.  Corporatespeak such as this is a blatant failure to communicate effectively. 

Contrast that with example 2, which immediately communicates a clear benefit, singularity, ease, and economy–everything a prospective customer wants to know.

In direct-response marketing, lack of communication is death.  If no one understands what you’re saying, no one will buy what you’re selling.  Therefore, avoid corporatespeak and opt for clear, uncomplicated language.

Do use strategically placed testimonials. 
Testimonials are a powerful sales tool, whether you’re selling online or offline. To apply testimonials successfully when selling online, they need to be positioned strategically throughout the website. 

An ideal place to position a powerful testimonial is very early on in the webpage, preferably in the first or second screen.  In that position, the testimonial puts a blanket of credibitlity on the rest of the copy.

How SuffWorks.com, one of the most frequently visited sites on the web, uses dynamically generated testimonials on its website header, actually displaying a different testimonial every few seconds.

It’s also important to add testimonials strategically throughout your web copy, particularly in areas where they will reinforce your selling arguments. 

Testimonials are also particularly useful in your order form, right before you ask for the order (before your call to action), and in your order confirmation e-mail (to reinforce the sale).

Don’t try to impress your readers with your fancy vocabulary. 
Effective copywriting isn’t about making grandiose, highfalutin claims.  It is about communicating in a way that people can easily understand.

Don’t be pompous (self-important or arrogant). 
Let the testimonials make you look good.  People online don’t like marketese or bragging, boastful language.

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