February 6, 2010 in Copywriting For The Web, Misc

Copywriting for the Web: The Good, The Bad, and The Copy

writing-web-copywritingWhen it comes to good web copy there’s no simple mathematical equation to make your content a success. The process is admittedly subjective – what constitutes good web copy to one will read like a bag of wet sausages to another.

The only real dividing factor between The Good, The Bad, and The Copy, is how successful your content turns out to be in real terms i.e. does it sell your message and reach its intended target?

Well does it…?

As discussed in the previous post, get things underway by ring fencing your audience. This will automatically set you on the right travel of direction with regards to creating winning content.

Now you know who you are writing for it’s time to prepare the necessary ingredients.

Let’s make a cake

As a general guideline, it’s best to set your ego aside when writing for the web. All too often – and on occasion I have fallen victim to this –copywriters lose sight of their audience. Unless the subject demands it, avoid the pitfalls of novelistic devices and flowery prose. If you are writing web copy for a new line of washing machines, a Dickensian one page exposition might not be the most fitting approach.

Sure it sounds good, but does it sell?

Have a look round your room right now – unless you’re sat on a beach – and you’ll be amazed by the extent of copy that falls into your eye line. No doubt you’ve forked out hard-earned money on some of these products so the chances are the copy attached to them is successful.

Typically, but not always, triumphant web copy veers away from the complexities of creative writing in favour of the simplistic.

So complex sentences, long words, jargon-heavy paragraphs may make us look smart, but given the trend for people to scan online, it’s often not the best route.

The key objective is to sell the message.

Flip the coin and where appropriate use short sentences, be snappy and to the point, deploy simple words that are easy to read and don’t require a dictionary.

As George Orwell recognised: why use a long word when a short one will do? Atta-boy George!

Boy George?

So take unnecessarily long words out and parachute simpler equivalents in. In doing so, why not use contractions such as ‘don’t’, instead of ‘do not’, or ‘you’re’, as opposed to ‘you are’.

By limiting the verbiage and getting straight to the point, not only will your content cater for the needs of the online reader, but the visual layout will also become more succinct and easier on the eye.

It’s a win win situation.

Less is often more, just let the subject and your audience dictate the copy.

About Anthony

Anthony Brewitt is Design Bit, has been for years - he's an experienced WordPress Designer, and Muggle-born Marketing Philosopher. Let’s talk about your website; your marketing, blog design, and that cool new mobile web thingy. Contact Anthony

4 Responses to Copywriting for the Web: The Good, The Bad, and The Copy

  1. Writing copy is one of the harder parts of web design, and there is, like you say, always the temptation to over complicate what you are saying which will just lose your audience.

    I think the thing I find hardest is not repeating the same lines when doing websites that require similar content.

  2. Mike you’re definitely right to say clarity should prosper over contrivance when it comes to web copy.

    Copywriter guru Joe Sugarman argued a bit back that every element of copy strives towards one goal — to get the first sentence read. And while there is some truth to that, what Sugarman more convincingly highlights is the need for immediacy with web copy. Basically hook the reader in from the start and refuse to let go.

    As for your other point: I think repetition is something we all face from time to time. In some cases it may be possible to circumvent this by boiling down your content into fewer phrases, as opposed to stretching it out. Obviously this isn’t always possible and requires the use of inventive prose to make each line sound revitalised rather than repetitive.

    I have noticed over the past few years an increasing tendency where people simply click ‘thesaurus’ and change words to equivalents. On a commercial front this poses a number of obvious dangers. All too often people supplant words that simply don’t make any sense, change the context of their copy, impedes the rhythm, and/or overcomplicates it. Needless to say such problems stand out like a sore thumb. So at the very least I’d always recommend people filter their work through a good editor or proof reader.

    Thanks Mike

  3. What are copywriting classes like? I am thinking about minoring in copywriting at my school (I’m a fiction major) and I’d to know what sort of things are taught, what kinds of homework/practice/exercises there are, etc. Anybody here with experience?

  4. Matt Pattinson (copywriter)

    Hi Bloemker,

    As I’ve never undertaken a copywriting class in a formal educational setting I’m afraid I can’t really comment there.

    I have, however, studied English and Politics at degree level and found it really helped with my previous profession of political journalist.

    Based on that, I’d imagine any type of copywriting training would be useful, especially if you already work in the field or are planning to join the industry.

    I run the copywriting agency CreativePen and post regular articles on the art of copywriting – these range from ‘how to’ lessons to the role of copywriting in culture and beyond.

    So check out http://creativepen.co.uk for for further reading on the subject of copywriting.

    Good luck with things and hopefully talk to you again on CreativePen.



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