5 tips to instantly improve your site’s copy

5 tips to instantly improve your site’s copy

Chris Wolfgang's Layout avatar

A fundamental key to building a beautiful site means knowing what’s going to be on it. No doubt you know this. What you might not know is how to create copy that matches the beauty of your design. Writing more than 140 characters can present a paralyzing challenge, but don’t fret. These five tips will take you from lorem ipsum to a voice that’s all your own. Me, Writing.

Find your focus

What’s your point? Don’t stress about how you’re not Hemingway until you’ve settled on the message you want to convey. For relatively short content, such as an intro to your team’s profiles, write one sentence that says exactly what you’re doing. “I’m introducing the web to my awesome team by explaining their roles plus one hobby apiece.” This doesn’t have to be anything that sees the light of internet. This is for your eyes only, and it’s an answer to your question, “Why am I writing this?” Voilà. Instant focus. Keep it at your side while you write. This holds true for long-form content as well — except now you need to include that super-focused sentence in your published copy. Formally, this is called a thesis statement. Why do you need one? Because readers want to know why they should read all the words. (Hint: This post’s thesis statement is the fifth sentence from the top.)

However, your thesis statement, while comforting to have around, is not enough to keep you focused for thousands of words. You have more questions that need answered, such as “Do I need 1,000 words to talk about the difference between font and typeface?” You might. You might not. This is where outlines come in handy, and you should write one. Every bullet needs to answer your one-sentence focus.

Use transitions

Outlines also make room for smooth transitions. These are pauses between points when you take your reader by the hand with a sentence that says, “You were just over there. Now we’re going over here. This is why.”

Transitions serve two purposes: They help your readers follow your line of thought, and they keep you from straying from your point. If you can’t figure out how to write a transition that connects two points, it’s time for some introspection. You may just need to reorganize your outline. Would point IV transition more easily into point II? Swap some paragraphs around. Worst case scenario, you’ll realize point II doesn’t fit anywhere, and you should cut it altogether. But that’s cool — you’re just implementing your focus.

Be accurate

You may assume since you’re writing copy for your own site that you know what you’re talking about. To some extent, you probably do. Also, you’re publishing on the internet — we’ve finally moved away from the permanence of printed typos, right?

Don’t go there. Get your facts straight the first time. Why? Because the internet has lots of things that print doesn’t have and those are commenters. If at least part of your goal with your site’s copy is to increase your credibility, get all your facts right before you publish. This will also save you from writing emails along the lines of, “Oh, crap, we’ll fix that.” Time. Saver.

Do your research. For long-form content, go a step further and try to have sources. Those are experts that you ask about things and then write down what they say. Set credibility to increase.

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Strive for simplicity

Even when quoting other sources, your own voice should still be obvious. It’ll shine through the most when you start writing like you speak. Or like your company would speak if it were a person. Give yours a voice that reflects its personality.

Here at Flywheel, for example, we’re all about making challenges less intimidating. We’re not the type of people to stress about complete sentences and whether or not certain words are unprofessional. But your company might not be okay with, say, profanity on its site, and it’s important to establish that. It’s still not an excuse to use flowery language or overly stuffy vocabulary. Keep your sentences short and your focus in mind. If you wouldn’t normally try to convey your point with a three-syllable word, there’s no place for that on your site.

Know (or Google) basic technique

Want to be seen as an expert in any field other than English? You still need to use language correctly — that includes all the trimmings of spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Get basic writing technique down. If you can’t be troubled to recall lie versus lay, there are sites just for you. A quick Google will save your comments field from filling up with “it’s YOUR, not YOU’RE,” which means you’ve made room for conversations about what you actually wrote.

So next time you’re sweating bullets over site copy, keep this checklist handy:

  • Find your focus
  • Use transitions
  • Be accurate
  • Strive for simplicity
  • Know basic technique

That’s all it takes to get distractingly bad copy off your site and get on with letting the world know you for the expert you truly are. Promise.

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