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March 30, 2010

180-Degree Copywriting

I’m pretty good at spotting business websites that are written by people who are not in the writing business. They almost always read in an eerily similar fashion:

  • Long-winded paragraphs touting their vast experience? Check.
  • Use of clichés and meaningless “filler” phrases like “We’re a full service operation” and “Clients are our Number One priority”? Check.
  • Use of vocabulary words you barely remember from your SATs? Check.
  • Antiquated grammar rules followed to the letter, creating awkward sentences? Check.
  • No call to action? Check.

Here’s the thing: People don’t read websites the way they read Charles Dickens. Potential clients who click on your site will scan your pages to find the information they need. They’re not looking for classic literature to read by the fire on a chilly, rain-swept evening.

Writing in a conversational style in most cases will keep the attention of your readers. Boring them with endless fluff to show that you’ve been to college does nothing to bring you closer to landing that elusive prospect. The best way to present your website to the public is to write concisely. Short sentences are good. Skip the clichés. Lose the pretentious vocabulary. End sentences with prepositions. And remember to offer your clients something.

I know, it’s counterintuitive (there’s a cool SAT word!) logic. That is, it goes against what your teachers taught you in school. But this is not a classroom. The way the world communicates today is different from what you may have learned if you attended college before 1995 or so.

When reviewing your site’s content, “do a 180” and forget some of the writing rules you’ve learned. Write instinctively and in a conversational style that will appeal to your readership. You may find that writing succinctly (oops, borderline SAT word!) is far more difficult than going on and on about your excellence and know-how in your line of work. Engage your readers. If this style of writing is strangely difficult for you, it’s the perfect opportunity to hire a copywriter.