I’ve been looking at a lot of words lately. Web pages, Facebook posts, newsletters, blog articles. They are all full of them. So many words. And I’ve got to thinking, we’re using far too many of them. We’re littering the internet with text. And no one can see our valuable messages for the forest of words.
Write kick ass copy: less is more
I came across this Gaping Void cartoon while trampling through all the words which inspired me to share my thoughts in this post.
More, more, more. We’re all guilty of it. We feel like we must, our wants and needs take over. But the reality is we can do more with less.
Protecting your fragile glasses by wrapping them individually in bubble wrap before putting them into a box is helpful when you’re moving house, but you’ve still got to be able to get to the wine glasses at the other end (you’re going to need that wine!). We don’t always need all the padding. Sometimes a cardboard box is enough.
The same goes for padding our copy. Too much bubble wrap and the message gets muffled. Your reader hasn’t got the time or patience to go digging for meaning.
Words are important
We need words, they are the basis of conversation and communication. Hey, it’s how I’m currently earning a living. But, we need to move away from the Tolkien-esque novels that so many of us are attempting to write online.
Audiences online are bombarded with information, they are overstimulated. It is your job to give them what they are looking for. Demian Farnworth, one of the writers at Copyblogger (I’m a massive fan of them both), explains exactly how you can do this by crafting concise copy.
Copy, in a traditional marketing sense, refers to the words that sell. The purpose of copy is to encourage our readers to take action – subscribe to your newsletter, contact you, sign a petition, fill out an enquiry form, buy your product etc.
Digital copy isn’t supposed to be descriptive and flowery. Nor is it meant to be overly clever or creative. The best, most effective copy uses direct, clear, simple language that is free of jargon. And actionable.
Attention and action
Often we get carried away with trying to explain all the awesome things about our service/product that the goodness becomes hidden under a pile. A pile of extraneous words.
In order to sell our products and services, we need to be creating copy that is concise and to the point.
“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein
Using too many words makes our messages less effective. And your reader bored, disinterested. . .ooh look over there a shiny new thing.
Give your reader something to focus on. Be bold. Be clear. Be that shiny thing that holds their attention. Be compelling, tell them exactly what you want them to do.
Being succinct in your writing means your reader will be more likely to convert. You can write 50 words or 5000 it doesn’t matter, so long as your message is clear. Copy is exact, precise and compelling, not filled with poetic adjectives and metaphors. Leave those for the novels. Remember: the purpose of copy is to convert the reader into a customer. Hubspot has a few tips on how to do this.
Cutting the crap
This is the all important editing process. I call it getting my red pen out.
After you’ve blurted everything out on the page, take a break. Leave your computer/desk/notebook. Take the dog for a walk. Make a curry laksa. Have a shower. Do some gardening. . .you get the gist. Then, after you’ve slept on it, read what you’ve written with fresh eyes. Now you are ready to reassess.
Your aim is to get rid of the waffle. How does it sound if you read it out aloud? Do you stumble over long sentences or get tongue-tied by your clever use of intelligent sounding ‘big words’?
Be critical. Simplify your sentences, make them shorter. Strike out superfluous words. If one word can be used instead of five, use one. Get ruthless and remove paragraphs that aren’t adding any value.
It may take you a few goes to get it right. Stick with it.