Cut the chatter, make your copywriting matter

Cut the chatter, make your copywriting matter

Everyone thinks they can multitask. But, think of the last time you tried to watch TV and work. Were you productive? If I was a gambling man, I’d take almost any odds against you. Not because I don’t believe in you, but because TV and productivity don’t mix. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Our attention spans are so short it's scary. The study Not Quite the Average: An Empirical Study of Web Use found that we have shorter attention spans than goldfish. In this study, people only read a quarter of the content. That doesn't give you much time to capture their attention.

This means that if you want to improve your copywriting, you need to keep it clear and focused.

You can do this by avoiding three common mistakes:

  1. Unnecessary words
  2. Topic detours
  3. Complicated words

Unnecessary words

Extra words clutter your writing and make it harder to understand. When copywriting it’s important to make sure that every word has a job. In the book "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser, he suggests cutting your writing down to the simplest form and then building it back up. This way, you eliminate words that don’t add value.

Why is this so important? Look at these two photos. Where would it be easier to find important documents?

Picture of a cluttered office.
Picture of a well kept office

It probably didn't take very long to decide on the second one. When our copy is concise, it gives the reader the best opportunity to learn from our blog post.

Look at an example of how bloated copywriting can obscure the point:

Something that can improve your overall marketing strategy is content marketing, as it will make the most of what you are already doing. Content marketing can help you improve conversion optimization, and increase marketing qualified leads.

Now compare that with this:

You can improve the effectiveness of your marketing by writing content that people want to read. This will help turn your site's visitors into new customers.

Which one is easier to understand? They both transmit the same idea, but the second sounds more like a human and doesn't exclude people who aren't industry experts.

Your copywriting affects the way people perceive your company. If a reader thinks that the language is stuffy, they could assume that’s how you are. You don’t want people avoiding your website because of a bad first impression.

But, since we’re not all copywriters, what can you do to improve your content? Write simply. It’s easy to convince ourselves that people like big words because they “make you” seem professional. But that’s not the case. Think of the companies you buy from, and look at their message. You’ll find that the majority of businesses we love use simple language and short sentences.

They don’t consider their reader’s dumb. But, they realize that there is a short window to capture the audience’s attention. It’s easy to lose a prospect who doesn’t understand your message quickly.

Topic detours

A tree with many branches.

Think of your topic as the trunk of a tree. Your goal is to get water from the roots to the tip of one of the branches. As you go up, it’s harder to stay on the right path and easy to go off in many directions.

Copywriting is often like that. You’ve done your research, and you have lots of ideas. When you’re teaching, it’s easy to get excited and lose focus.

Your title tells people what they will learn. By teaching what you promised, you’ll meet your readers’ expectations. But, you obviously want to do more than meet these expectations. Don’t do this by teaching them something else in the same article, instead add value with better writing and extra resources.

For example, a useful tool to improve your writing is the Hemingway app. This app will analyze your copy and help you eliminate unnecessary words. It will also grade your sentences so that you can write clear, concise paragraphs.

Complicated words

A portrait of Shakespeare.
Write for everyone, not to impress Shakespeare

What do the words "inception," "implement," and, "subsequent" have in common? They're complicated and have simpler alternatives. For example, instead of inception, why not use start. Instead of implement, you could say carry out. Why not say after or later when you feel the need to use subsequent?

Again it’s about keeping the reader’s attention. If you use big words without a purpose, you’ll quickly lose their attention, especially if they have to use a dictionary to understand you.

That’s not to say that big words don’t have their place. Ask yourself two questions when in doubt. Is there a simpler alternative? Is there a better word for the job? If you answered no to both of these questions, it’s probably safe to leave the word in.

Take home

Most of the things we just talked about are grammar and editing problems. So, why are we talking about them?  This is not a grammar blog, but grammar is an essential part of great copywriting. It’s also one of the easiest ways to improve.

As the market gets busier, people spend less time reading your content. Don’t waste the short time you have with fancy words. Get your simple, honest message out there, and readers will love you for it.

P.S. If you want help writing a better blog, I'd love to chat, schedule a quick phone call with me here.