Good writing is good writing. Is good writing
Either on or offline, quality writing is what you should aim for. Yet, writing for the web is different from writing for print.
Well, people read differently online to how they read in print. And they're more distracted than they ever used to be.
I said…they’re more dis-trac-ted! Are you paying attention?
Or are you trying to multi-task? By the way, if you're a man, forget about it. We just can't do it.
Now, what was I doing...oh yes, complaining about how distracted online readers are.
Everything changes and nothing changes Readers have always been in a hurry of course. Journalists have known for centuries that readers don't read everything in a newspaper. They scan instead. Because they know this, journalists try and tell a story with the headline, the photo or an image and in the first paragraph of the article.
Authors try and grab a person’s attention with the first sentence of their novels.
If they don't, then their literary masterpiece will remain unsold, unread and unloved.
No change there then? Actually, there is...
Understand The New Reality Of Online Reading
Your online readers are different in how they read these days. They read copy on a range of devices and on various screen sizes. They're impatient. They're task focused. And they are difficult to please.
Your website had better give them what they want, when and how they want it, or they're gone.
Your digitally-savvy readers will have their smartphones by their sides. It never leaves them. Pinging away as it does with this message or that notification.
Your web readers are scanning your words whilst sitting in a noisy office. One-half of their brain is trying to understand your pearls of wisdom. While the other half is listening out for when a colleague offers to make coffee. With the other half is keeping an eye out for the boss.
I was never any good at maths.
If they're not at work, then your online readers are on the bus or train home. And at home, there’s always something happening, and it's usually quite loud. The kids are playing up downstairs. Sister's sighing in her sleep and brother's got a date to keep. It's Madness in there.
What then is a modern, digital copywriter to do <wrings hands in distress>?
Accept Short Attention Spans
As challenging as it is, we must accept that things aren't going to change.
The Internet isn't going back into its box.
The pace of our digitally-distracted lives is not slowing down. Quite the reverse in fact.
Writing for your online audiences then means accepting and understanding what they're like. Embrace the fact that they will impatiently scan read. Indeed, help them to do so and they will love you for it.
What This All Means In Practice
In practical terms, this means breaking-up the text on your web pages into short paragraphs.
One sentence paragraphs are fine.
Write in short sentences too. Like this one. And this one.
Write your web copy using simple language.
Don't demonstrate your proficiency in English. Prove your skills instead.
Avoid jargon and write in a more personal, informal style. This does not mean ‘dumbing down’ your words. But it does mean adopting a tone of voice that makes you sound more like a human and less like a dalek.
Use Plenty of Subheadings To Help Readers Scan Your Pages
You can also add variety to your text
Emphasise words using bold and italics.
But don’t over-do this. It's great if it helps understanding but can go too far and it can look very odd indeed.
Especially if you also underline words as well.
Give Your Online Readers Something To Do
Add different types of content to your web pages. Find material that supports your message whilst keeping your readers engaged.
Bear in mind, when your readers go online, they don’t want to be readers! They prefer to “do things”. They like to click useful links that support your material. They like to watch appropriate videos. They like to complete fun quizzes and download valuable content.
Give them an interactive experience and they'll be delighted.
Don’t Forget Your Writing Skills
Finally, remember that all this web-trickery won’t help you if your content is boring.
Write with your readers in mind. Understand them and work hard to produce the content they want and need. Do this, and if you're lucky, they might, just might, slow down and actually read what you've written.
Include A Call To Action
Oh, and I nearly forgot. In order to make your writing efforts worthwhile, always ask your readers to do something for you. Because, if you don't ask, you don't get.
So, if you'd like some help with your digital marketing, including web copywriting, then contact me or connect via LinkedIn or Twitter.
You can go back to your smartphone now ;-)