8 Ways to Improve Your Copy – Today!
As strange as it may seem, Web Design doesn’t stop with the visuals. Even if you have a streamlined, efficient and reliable website, it will suffer if the content isn’t good. Here are some things you need to do to make sure that your content matches the quality of your design. Apologies in advance if some of these pieces of advice seem a bit basic – but all of them are problems which even very expensive brands sometimes let slip through the cracks.
The #1 hallmark of a bad website is bad spelling and punctuation. Before anything goes live and a customer can see it, it needs to be checked. Put the copy into a word processor – or install a program like Grammarly into your web-browser – this should weed out the initial glaring issues.
Make sure that you don’t follow suggestions too slavishly. The Internet is rife with complications that have come about due to autocorrect. If it’s a name, it won’t be recognised, or a spelling suggestion might come up saying that you need to change it to a known word. Just use your common sense (not always as easy to do as it sounds).
Get ready for the nit-picking section. After bad spelling, punctuation is the easiest thing that people miss. Although it’s OK to be lax in emails and texts, it’s not OK on websites. First things first, make sure there is a full stop, exclamation mark or question mark at the end of every sentence. Also, make sure that there is a question mark at the end of every question.
First things first, make sure there is a full stop, exclamation mark or question mark at the end of every sentence. Also, make sure that there is a question mark at the end of every question.
3. Colons and Semi-Colons
If you have used punctuation in titles, make sure that you use it in all titles. If you haven’t, don’t – stay consistent. If you’re using a colon or semi-colon, make sure you use them right. Colons introduce lists or new information, semi-colons replace a connective to make a comparison or separate long items in a list. If you’re still unsure, avoid them.
Be wary of apostrophes. It’s is short for it is and you’re is short for you are. You don’t say ‘we welcome you are business,’ so don’t write ‘we welcome you’re business’. Also, unless a plural noun – like customers – is followed by something that they can own you shouldn’t use an apostrophe.
Apostrophes are used at the end of words to show possession. ‘It is the customers responsibility’ is wrong because the responsibility belongs to the customer, it should be ‘customer’s responsibility’, or if it refers to more than one customer, ‘customers’ responsibility.’
Try and keep your sentences short and clear. If you have a long sentence, see if you can break it into smaller sentences. Look at the words in a sentence and make sure each of them does something. If you can get across the same message in fewer words, you probably should.
You may choose to have long sentences with lots of detail – but then you need to make sure that style is consistent. If a long sentence appears out of nowhere, consider cutting it down.
The purpose of your writing is a useful thing to consider when you’re editing. When you look at the piece of writing that you’re doing, you should ask what the purpose of it is. What is it doing? Is it giving people information, solving their problem, building a social connection or entertaining them? If you can’t answer yes to any one of those four questions, consider cutting it.
This may sound like a strange thing to do for website copy, but try reading your sentences out loud. We write differently than we speak. Reading what you write out loud is a very easy way to identify when the phrasing you are using is clunky or overly complicated. It is also a very efficient way of highlighting errors that you can miss when you are just reading.
8. Tense Person Voice
You don’t need to become a tense person with a quiver in your voice when looking at tense, person and voice in your writing. The rule is consistency. Most people on websites write in the present tense, active voice and using direct address (we, us, you). This makes the copy seem more active.
Look out for key indicators if your writing falls out of that tense. Use of I, He and She are fine – but ask if they’re switching up the perspective of your writing. If you are using verbs that end in -ed, see if the sentence still makes sense in relation to the rest of your writing.
Check and recheck
The difference between successful websites and not so successful websites is polish. The 8 points above are by no means a comprehensive checklist, but they do address most of the major problems that will make your website look unprofessional, no matter how slick your interface is.
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