Don’t Forget to Wear Your Glasses

Published on April 29, 2013 by Eric Weld

Help Your Readers Get the Message with Clear, Focused Copy

I don’t like wearing my glasses. I’m not required to wear them all the time, only if I want to see things sharply in the distance. It’s not that they’re uncomfortable; modern frames are so light and balanced, it’s easy to forget they’re perched on your nose. Still, I don’t wear them sometimes when I should.

glassesThe problem is, if I go to a movie, play, concert or sporting event, say, and I don’t wear my glasses, the images on stage or screen or field/court are not clear. They’re blurry, fuzzy and unfocused. It significantly hampers my enjoyment of the entertainment and action.

It’s the same effect as reading copy that is unclear and unfocused. It feels sloppy, it reads blurry, the message is fuzzy, and the words’ lack of clarity becomes a distraction. The message becomes undecipherable and readers will quickly give up and move on.

If you created a visual masterpiece and put it on public display for others to enjoy, would you want people looking at it and experiencing it without their best eyesight? Wouldn’t you hope they’d put their glasses on?

Well, your masterpiece is your web site. That is the place where most people will first meet you, make their first impressions and decide whether to continue the relationship.

Without a clear message in the written copy on your web site, it’s like your visitors are wearing the wrong prescription lenses. Most likely, they won’t stick around.

How do you produce a sharp, focused message? And how do you make sure your message is coming through clearly?

These are big questions, and one answer is to hire a professional (like Weld Communications) to make absolutely certain that your copy is strong, engaging and focused.

For those in business who produce their own copy—either on their web sites or for other business materials—there are a few points to keep in mind while writing:

  1. Get to the point quickly. Modern attention spans are short. Thirty years ago, we had an average of 30 seconds to capture a reader or prospect. In today’s online world, it’s 4 to 6 seconds. So make your point fast.
  2. Use short sentences. Ideally, readable copy varies in sentence length. You can create rhythm by inserting a short sentence amid a couple long sentences. Like this one. Keeping it varied helps keep readers engaged. That said, short sentences, especially in marketing copy, are more reader-friendly. Between 15 and 25 words is optimal, with some 4 to 10-word sentences thrown in. Never should a sentence contain more than 35 words. It’s too much information for the brain to assimilate. Also, break up your sentences with punctuation—like em-dashes, semi-colons and commas.
  3. Use a conversational tone. This is important, and it’s a common breach in web site copy. No industry jargon, unless you are expecting and catering only to industry insiders. Keep your marketing copy light, as close to casual speaking style as possible. Pretend you’re talking to a particular person, at a party or networking event. How would you say to them what you’re trying to write?
  4. Know who you’re talking to. Okay, it’s more grammatically correct to say, Know to whom you are talking.  But that’s exactly my point above. Using conversational language sometimes might mean being a little grammatically iffy, or at least informal. Don’t let that scare you. Think of your ideal prospect—give the person a name, gender, age, job and physical characteristics—and speak to that person directly. No condescension. No stuffiness.
  5. Say what you want people to do. This is another very common mistake in marketing and web site copy. You could create the most beautiful marketing copy ever written, but if you don’t tell people what you want them to do—like “Click here for more information,” “Sign up for our monthly newsletter” or “Buy Now”—it won’t do any work. Make sure your copy includes a Call To Action (CTA); a clear message inviting them to do what you want them to do to begin the business-client relationship.

There are endless layers of rules and tips for clear, concise writing. But keep these five points in mind when producing your marketing copy and you will be well ahead of 90 percent of those writing their own copy.

Just remember, when you’re writing marketing copy, to put your glasses on.

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