Welcome to the first of a short series of copywriting blogs, helping you to add meaningful and attractive content to your website whenever you need to.
Writing for the web is a different discipline from other forms of writing, with the possible exception of sales copy. It requires imagination and a degree of flair but the good news is that you can occasionally break the rules. Now, I’m usually a stickler for the rules, especially when it comes to written English, but there are a few exceptions if you want to grab the reader’s attention. Let’s look at one or two:
Writing a headline to an article has a couple of major functions:
Firstly, it must grab the reader’s attention.
It’s common to see bland headlines like, “Welcome to Acme Widgets”, or “Acme Widgets – suppliers of widgets in the North East”. The first of these is everyone’s first attempt. Unfortunately they often end up as the last attempt and you can find examples everywere on the Intertubes. The second is written to get the term “North East” into the title to help with search engine optimisation. People may be searching using the term “Widgets, North East”. Fine as far as it goes, but hardly inspiring.
Try asking a question, and putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
“Where can I find widgets in the North East?”, “Want the cheapest widgets on the web?”, “Need widgets at an affordable price?” and how about some well-tested formulas, for example Testimonial Headlines like, “Outstanding service – solved my widget problems overnight”? How about, “Warning – our widgets WILL increase your profit margins…”
Secondly, the headline must make the reader want to read the next line. That’s the real purpose of any headline. Questions like “Where can I find widgets in the North East?” demands that if you’re looking for a widget provider then reading where you can find one is a must.
“Need a good copywriter?” isn’t a sentence. But it is a headline. Be prepared to drop one or two structural rules to get your meaning across. Write as people speak. Want another example? Read the previous sentence.
You know, the three dots following a sentence which tells you its incomplete. In prose this is used in sentences like, “Stop, or I’ll…”, or “I knew it was the right thing…”, he tailed off.
Firstly, it’s only three dots. Not two or four, but three. I’ve seen eight.
In writing for websites it can be used to lead the reader to the next line:
“Want sales copy that guarantees sales…
..but doesn’t cost the earth?”
This is poor punctuation in the normal writing sense, but perfectly acceptable in web and sales copy. In fact it can look far more natural than the more correct form, “Do you want sales copy that guarantees sales but doesn’t cost the earth?”
Break text up. There’s a grammatical rule that a paragraph shouldn’t comprise of a single sentence.
Clearly that’s not always true.
Make the text look interesting as well as sounding interesting. Blocks of text will scare all but the most determined reader away. This is something you really don’t want. Short, punchy sentences in sales copy, selling the benefits not the features (as I’m sure you know). Break the paragraph rule to make your copy readable.
Rules not to break
Pretty much everything is up for grabs. However, bad spelling will never win hearts and minds. Spell check everything before you publish and use appropriate punctuation. Take time to learn what’s correct, even if you only do so to break the rules. Doing something unusual is fine providing you know both what you’ve done and why you’ve done it.
Rules work, but occasionally breaking them works better. Just be aware of your reading audience and the standards they might expect.
If there’s any writing you feel too lazy to handle, or you’d like a professional opinion on, then call me on 01454 310752 or get in touch using my contact form.