10 Principles for Writing Compelling Web Copy
Writing for the Web is its own genre. Online people are browsers; they pop onto a site, look around for 30 seconds, and move on if nothing new catches their eye. Capturing and keeping our visitors’ attention is crucial to Bartlett’s success. To achieve that goal, your writing must be both compelling and persuasive.
The following 10 principles are essential for writing exceptional Web-based content
1. It’s All About the Reader: Put yourself in our reader’s shoes: They’re busy people who are efficient, effective, and probably tired. They come craving immediate insight and easy-to-digest information. If you put the reader first, the rest will follow.
2. Brevity is Clarity: Make it easy for readers to consume your ideas. Avoid sentence over 35 words long, and eschew paragraphs over six sentences long. Also, alternating your sentence format and length adds energy to words.
3. Clarity is Key: Don’t make assumptions about the audience’s level of knowledge or sophistication. Tell the readers exactly what they need to know. If you are unclear or overly technical, they will quit reading.
4. Use Vigorous Language: Vibrant verbs and powerful nouns enliven your writing; avoid adverbs or adjectives wherever possible (except when describing verbs and nouns).
5. Distinguish Yourself: Content (what you say) and style (how you say it) work together to keep readers coming back for more. Focus on delivering transformative information and ideas with panache and aplomb.
6. Say it New: The majority of information you present will not be new; however, if you present this material from a new perspective, your readership will rocket.
7. Get Creative: Find subtle ways to reframe your main ideas without repeating yourself (metaphors, analogies, and anecdotes help). Admittedly, this is a fine line.
8. Ditch the Hype: Instead of exposing your latest 5-point plan to cure (fill-in-the-blank), be a knowledgeable proponent of balanced, vibrant, and prosperous living.
9. Tell a Good Story: Don Hewitt built the most successful news program in TV history, 60 Minutes, on one simple premise: “Tell me a story.” If you tell a good story, people naturally want to read more.
10. Offer Solutions: Solve people’s problems. Web users are impatient information seekers by nature, which means they are hungry for new data, products, and solutions. Give the people what they want.
As you incorporate these principles into your content, keep in mind these are recommendations—not rules. Don’t try to work this entire list into any every piece of copy. Instead, play around with a few of the ideas presented here, writing and rewriting your content to see which ones work best for you.