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How to write compelling copy that won't bore your audience.

Keep it simple, be creative, and stand out from your competitors.

Get to the point, quickly.

Image of an arrow fired straight through an apple

Boring, wasteful copy is everywhere online. It's all over corporate websites still stuck in the early 90's, who seem to think that I'm reading all 2000 words on their about page. Uh, nope.

Lucky for me, I rarely see any of it.

It's an amazing feeling knowing that I can browse until my heart's content and never fall prey to the laziness of these sites that never update or write anything engaging.

That's because every time I'm being bombarded with 'boring', I get to press the shiny, magical and all-powerful 'x' at the top of my broswer.

Cutting through to your audience

If you really want to speak to your audience, then have a conversation with them. Stop treating your website like this 'paragon of wisdom' to be trotted out whenever a user happens to land on it, and start treating your copy as a conversation starter.

For example—and for the sake of argument, let's stick with the large, corporate angle here—imagine you are responsible for writing the website copy for a University, and you wan't to explain how good your ammenities are.

Now you could start off with something like, 'Students at our university have access to an amazing range of facilities', which would be pretty standard, and kind of... meh— so instead try, 'We know that great facilities can make all the difference when you're studying hard, so we give you access to the best.'

Just reframing it so that you're speaking directly to the reader's problem is the crucial difference here.

Keep it simple

The web is not a place for reading novels. It's meant for bite-sized nuggets of information, designed to entice, so stop making people's eyes bleed with lofty prose that's better off in an Austin novel.

Keep your sentences short, to the point, and readable. If you can do that, you'll have a much better site on your hands, and for anyone interested in the technical stuff, it will equate to longer session times.

An image of a tiny piece of chocolate cake on a fork I'll take a soy latte and 10 bit-sized cakes to go, thanks.

Please, don't recycle (in this case)

In my experience, larger organisations that have exsiting copy will be reluctant to commision updated copy when building a new site. I get it, there are budgets to consider—but not reviewing at least the copy on key pages is a serious blunder.

Talented web copywriters will bring a honed, SEO-friendly and targeted approach to their words, that leads to better metrics across the board, so they're worth their weight in gold.

Knowing when enough is enough

Stop wiritng essays! The best copywriters know when they've made their point, and won't be tempted to turn their site into a thousand word treatice on the pros and cons of buying an indoor conifer.

Yes, there's a time and place for needing a tonne of information on say, how to treat the plant for infection, but it doesn't belong on the purchase page, that's for sure. Don't clutter the most important things on that page with trash; a big pretty picture or two, the price, and a clear 'BUY NOW' button will do the job.

All the rest is a distraction if the user has made it that far into your site.

Speaking of big, pretty pictures...

Use pictures! Lots of 'em. People scan pages, and despite your best efforts they probably won't read your copy properly. In fact, only 28% of it, according to the research done by the NN group—so break it up and make it digestible.

Balancing your copy with imagery is a proven strategy to combat this seriously low attention span. By Illustrating your points with visuals, you're increasing the odds of getting your point accross quicker and with easier retention.

Tell a story

I read ages ago somewhere, probably on Paul Boag's awesome blog, that there is a crucial difference between talking about the 'features' versus the 'benefits' of a product.

Instead of trailing off with 'This conifer has shiny green leaves and doesn't need much water', you should be talking about how it will improve the buyer's life. So try, 'An indoor conifer will brighten any indoor space, or give a your desk a new lease on life.'

Focus on the reader's ultimate goal, rather than what's on their screen that they can see. Sell the story, not the plant.

Take someone else's word for it

It's important to back yourself from time to time, but if you're writing about a particulary tricky subject, or something you're not hugely confident about, then get some honest feedback from people you trust. All my posts are vetted by someone I know who is a SME (Subject Matter Expert).

Make it bigger

Most body copy online is way too small. There's a fantastic article by Xtian Miller over on medium that you should check out here because it will change the way you approach your copy.

If you're someone who comes from a strong print background like me, and you still think 12px copy is the way to go, think again.

Making something easily scanable is half the battle, and making your body copy around 18-22px is a big part of the solution.

Illustration of a man coming out of a mobile using a telescope and looking for text
Don't make your copy difficult to read, especially on mobile.

Or... hire a web copywriter to do it all for you.

I haven't even touched on SEO, and that is a huge part of the process if you're getting serious about hitting page 1. Getting it right requires a lot of patience, and a lot of technical knowledge though, so be prepared for the long-haul.

But that's all beside the point.

Investing in great copy that's targeted, interesting and compelling isn't a 'dark art' that only Hermione Granger can comprehend—it's a practised skill that anyone can apply to their next project.

Ben Stevens is a Digital Designer based in Melboure, Australia.

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