July 12, 2010 in Copywriting For The Web, Misc

Copywriting for the Web: Firing Bullet Points at Web Copy

planeFrank grips the controls of his light aircraft and plots a course through a canyon of clouds. Free of the fluffy divide a sudden flood of sunlight washes over the plane’s metallic body.

“This is the life”, mutters Frank as he takes view of the green fields below.

With that, both engines start to chug.

Houston, we have a problem!

Bullet points and in-flight safety?

Abandoning the cockpit, a frantic search for a parachute ensues. All Frank finds is a ruler, a half-eaten sandwich and a copy of Reader’s Digest.

7,000 feet and counting…

A bulb suddenly lights up the murky abyss of Frank’s mind. Whipping an iPhone from his trouser pocket with the precision of a gunslinger, he connects to the internet.

6,000 feet and counting…

Frank shakily thumbs the words ‘what to do when a small aircraft goes down’ into Google. Clicking on the first return, a stream of dense content clogs the screen. With time of the essence, Frank hits the back button and continues his search for more easily digestible material.

5,000 feet and counting…

Now don’t take this the wrong way, online readers generally have short attention spans. This is especially the case when aboard a light aircraft in freefall.

As such, writers of web copy are tasked with keeping readers on the beaten-path and averting any unnecessary detours. This is no easy feat to achieve.

The copywriter must unleash a furious assault on the senses of the reader. Bullet points, of course, are a crucial cudgel in the copywriters’ arsenal.

Chunking-down body copy with bullet points

4,000 feet and counting…

A quick glance out of the cockpit window informs Frank that the once distant fields below are creeping up faster than a cheetah in a Ferrari. Desperation sets in. Clicking on the next search down, Frank hits the same wall. “I don’t have time to read a book”, he screams, “where are the bullet points and lists?”

3,000 feet and counting…

Frank is of course right to suggest that the visual composition of body copy is vital to holding readers’ attention. So when tackling a dense web copy project, why not try throwing a bullet pointed list into the mix? This will break your content down faster than a snowman at a tanning shop.

Readers are partial to the odd bullet point

2,000 feet and counting…

Beside himself with anger at the uninviting content, Frank sets about writing an email to the website’s author:

Dear Sir/Madam,

This may be my final communication with the outside world, so I feel it crucial to underscore the importance of bullet points when it comes to online readability.

Web writers use bullet points for a number of good reasons:

  • Readability                   – quite simply, people like lists
  • Concision                     – makes for scannable web copy
  • Visual                           – visual layout is crucial

In closing, bullet pointed lists must contain relevant information. They won’t work unless the list has been carefully thought-out. Bullet pointed lists need to be understood at a glance.



Ground control to major tom: we need bullet points

1,000 feet and counting…

With the end in sight, Frank makes one last ditch effort and clicks on the next website down. Hallelujah! The body copy is immaculately presented, utilising the benefits of headings, subheadings and bullet points.

Quickly scanning the content, Frank lays claim to an invaluable piece of information – ‘check the ignition’. Dashing into the cockpit with more vigour than a tooth fairy at the dentists, Frank spots that the ignition key is turned to ‘off’. Rotating the key one click to the right, the aircraft quickly jumps back to life.

2,000 feet and counting…

Ascending back to the heavens, Frank gives thanks to the bullet point which just saved his life. Dialling home, he tells his wife of the near catastrophic events. As the conversation draws to a close, Frank muses:

“Bullet pointed lists, headings and subheadings offer copywriters a fantastic method of making content visually pleasing and easy to read. Honey, we need writers to keep rocking the boat by peppering their content with appropriate page breaks. After all, to make a cake, you’ve got to crack a few eggs.”

10,000 feet and counting…

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

2 Responses to Copywriting for the Web: Firing Bullet Points at Web Copy

  1. I think as a web designer it’s important to always think about what tags you use to represent your content. I agree people love lists, many articles are written as “the top ten reasons blah blah blah”.

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