You’ve probably seen the unwashed legions of spell-checkers out there, correcting grammar on every Twitter and Facebook post they can. We will admit, most of us at 360 are in the same boat, leaving one word comments of “*you’re” or “*an.” Everyone can leave their thoughts on the internet and, believe us, everyone does. We’ve found that if the copy is well written people are more likely to read what you have to say. Well written web copy improves your bounce rate and, by default, website engagement and brand reputation. Improving your writing is not an easy undertaking and many people grow weary of it after mere minutes. Writing requires constant practice and you must truly study the art (yes, art.) of writing to improve your sentence flow, vocabulary and formatting.
**The remainder of this blog will discuss how to improve your website writing. If you don’t wish to write your own website copy or find that you simply don’t have the time, contact us about our copywriting services.
We know you don’t have months upon months to write your next content page. You need to write it now. Just for you, we’re going to talk about the quick and dirty methods for improving your writing that can be implemented immediately. If you currently don’t have any web copy, read our blog on how to generate content. Now, let’s edit.
Step 1. Start in a word processing program
Perhaps you’ve already done this, as people tend to begin their writing in Microsoft Word or Pages for Mac automatically. Although you could type this straight into the WYSIWYG or a basic text editor, leverage the power of a word processor to aid in your writing. They’ll be able to pick out errors you don’t see.
Step 2. Read your copy out loud
Your mom probably made you do this as a child and it works lovely. Listening to what you’ve typed allows you to process it as if it were a conversation. You’ll pick up on poor wording, misspellings and missing words.
Step 3. Ensure correct paragraph structure
Paragraphs are structured blocks of content. Your first sentence should be an introduction to the topic of the paragraph, followed by supporting sentences that expand on the topic. A concluding sentence should end your paragraph and potentially lead you into the next paragraph on the page. Do not ramble. Be concise and to the point. If possible, make a list of the points you want to discuss on your page. How do you introduce that topic? How do you conclude it? Your copy should be able to fill in the space between the two.
Step 4. Change up your sentences
Unless you’re employing an Anadiplosis, do not begin all your sentences with “We” or “The” or “Our”. Even having two sentences in a paragraph begin with the same word is poor form and comes off as lazy writing. Paragraphs have a flow. Long sentences and short sentences should work together to ensure the reading of the paragraph does not become flat and monotone.
Step 5. Look up your words, seriously
Most of us have a fuzzy definition for every word we use. Some of these words come to us from way back in highschool or college. Perhaps we heard them used and just assumed what they meant through the context of the sentence. As you’re reading through your copy and coming across multi-syllabic or ambiguous wording, I want you to define the word. Go to dictionary.com and get the actual definition. You’d be surprised by the abuse of language in today’s headlines and articles. Many words are frequently misused. Language can be very situational so make sure your sentence warrants the word you use. Also, ensure you’re writing for your audience. Do a Google inspect of your page to make sure you’re not writing at a college level for a highschool crowd.
(Real life example: “our wine list traverses the concept of basic white vs. red.” Traverse means to cross or pass through. So, “our wine list crosses the concept of basic white vs. red.” I believe they meant “surpasses” or “goes beyond” but the writer had an incorrect mental definition.)
Step 6. Rid your copy of all fancy punctuation
Avoid using colons, semicolons and dashes if you are unfamiliar with their use. You can easily communicate your points without them. As Kurt Vonnegut explains, “Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” Punctuation instructs the reader on how to read the words on your page. Incorrect or unfamiliar punctuation will cause the reader to falter or become hung up on a particular sentence, ruining the flow of your page.
Step 7. Print it Out
Print out your copy and read it. The internet has taught us to skim paragraphs and text. That cannot be the case here. Paper has a way of forcing us to focus on each word. Plus, it’s easier to mark up with corrections. If you have a friend handy, make them read your copy as well.
Step 8. Publish
If you’re still not convinced proper grammar is needed, maybe you’ll listen to Weird Al.
I want to be a copy beast!
If you truly want to improve at writing copy, you need to do three things.
- Go buy yourself a copy of “Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. It’s an english book condensed into 60ish pages and gives you guidance on punctuation, sentence structure and general writing.
- Read voraciously. I’m not speaking of magazines and newspapers. Read nice thick books for adults. No Harry Potter stuff here.
- Write constantly. You must be diligent in your practice to improve your craft.
That’s it. Go write some beautiful content.