A number of readers offered some really positive feedback on my blog in January Tips for better business writing with many offering thanks for the common sense tips and sometimes obvious reminders. It’s fair to say that the points made about ruthless editing of marketing copy struck home for many. So much so that a good contact of mine asked for my further views on some website copy they were putting together.
Reflecting on the advice I gave this contact I realised that there were some useful pointers for anyone writing or reviewing copy. Whilst this information relates to website copy it’s valid for just about any copy that you write or are looking to edit.
Points to consider when editing copy
- Establish what interests and motivates your client before you start to write. When editing, review your copy and ask yourself ‘Will this interest them – does it address a problem they have or help them take advantage of an opportunity?’
- Avoid writing about yourself, instead write for the audience. Readers are not interested in I, me, we, unless they are reading a novel maybe. But they are interested in what you can do for them.
- Try and give each page or section a compelling headline or subheading. The heading and first couple of sentences of any copy is what will encourage people to read on.
- Consider what action you want someone to take as a result of reading the copy and tell them. There should be something compelling on each page to make them want to pick up the phone, email you, sign up to your newsletter or learn more about what you offer.
- Use client quotes or testimonials if you have them – a client talking about the benefits you have delivered is far more convincing than your vague claims of what you could achieve.
- Consider what words clients use when they describe to others what you do for them and try and incorporate these into the text or use them in headings. They will tend to use language other clients will understand and be motivated by.
- Case studies are great, use them to make the benefits experienced by clients really tangible – ie in terms of money or time saved, improvements made, opportunities exploited and so on.
- Avoid jargon and acronyms unless you can be 100% sure the audience you want to read your copy will understand them. Your copy will flow better and be easier to read if you use a conversational style.
- Remember people don’t read websites in the same way they read a book, report or brochure, they flit around. So, you need to signpost them to the relevant content and often repeat key messages on multiple pages. Also bear in mind that Text and Twitter culture is training us all to expect messages in a much shorter, punchier format.
- Ask someone who knows nothing about your business to read the copy and confirm that they understand what it is you are offering – better still ask them to paraphrase what you’ve written, sometimes they’ll put it better than you can.
Some people really struggle when it comes to editing their own copy. The best advice I can give is to allow time between the drafting and editing process. Often when you leave copy for a few days and come back to it you can instantly see improvements that could be made.
As you re-read what you’ve written ask yourself at what point your key message appears. The biggest mistake made is to bury this midway down the copy. If it’s that important, make it the first thing you say, after all you can’t be sure how long you’ll have your reader’s attention for.