Home > 2012 > November

How to look unprofessional, lazy and dumb

I have a slightly unhealthy obsession with words. More specifically, I have a thing about bad grammar and spelling mistakes.  Here’s a brilliant example…

Er, I beg to differ.

Writing is about communication. I don’t care whether it’s an email, text message, Facebook comment, tweet, website or tattoo – if you make spelling mistakes and your grammar’s terrible, it’s going to get in the way of what you want to say. People will notice.  This was quoted on the Facebook page I judge you when you use poor grammar...

"Different business, clients, staff and so on, all bring different layers of bureaucracy, of which we always aim to adhere to. There will also be that portion of unforeseen urgent/important work, for which we just have to drop our tools and tend to."

I have absolutely no idea what that means. Clear communication has been drowned in a sea of commas, unnecessary words and precariously hanging prepositions.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not a grammar snob. I make my living as a copywriter and blogger and hey, we break the rules all the time. We write in a conversational style using slang, contractions, incomplete sentences, dangling prepositions, and Oxford commas. We also have an over-fondness for bullet points and pepper our prose with a liberal sprinkling of ellipses…

My old English teacher probably wouldn’t approve. (Sorry, Mrs Evans.)

Fortunately, I’m not writing for Mrs Evans. I’m speaking to a target audience, engaging them personally and professionally.  Slavishly following the rules will make me sound pompous. The conglomerates for whom I am writing will transfer their patronage to my numerous competitors. See? Anyway, I digress.

The point is, in order to break the rules effectively, you need to know the rules. Backwards, forwards and sideways. At best, carelessly bad grammar and spelling can change the meaning of what you want to say. At worst, it makes you look stupid. You lose credibility and your customer goes elsewhere.

If in doubt, hire a professional writer. Actually, hire me.

5 reasons why you shouldn't write your own web copy

People ask me occasionally, “Why should I pay someone to write my web content for me?”  Good question. You’re more than capable of stringing a sentence together. You know the difference between a full stop and an ellipsis… How difficult can it be?

Here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t write your own web copy.

1.       Because you’re fabulous

Oh go on, you know you're great. But it’s surprisingly difficult to write about. You're so busy running a business that it's easy to concentrate solely on its features. Your customer doesn't care about features. They want to know what they can gain as a result of your service. What can they save - or achieve? What can they get from you? How can they benefit?

A professional copywriter puts themselves directly in your customer’s shoes, makes a personal connection with them. Within seconds, your site visitor knows that you understand their needs and can deliver a clear benefit.

2.       You don’t have time

It takes hours of research, editing and hard graft to create engaging, benefit-focused website copy. Can you afford the time?  Look, this is one of my favourite quotes:

 “I’m sorry that this is such a long letter. I did not have time to write a short one”  (Blaise Pascal)

Which brings me on, rather neatly I think, to reason number 3…

3.       Your customer doesn’t have time

Web surfers are notoriously fickle. They'll click the back arrow within seconds if you don't grab their attention. That’s why there are two basic rules for writing for the web. The first is “Get to the point”. The second is, well, “Get to the point”.

Web content has to be concise, and it has to be conversational. Customers won’t wade through wasted words, long sentences, block paragraphs and "it's all about us" copy.

4.       Web content isn’t just writing

Reading on-screen isn’t the same as reading a newspaper or magazine. It’s unique, effectively an F-shape. We look at…

The first sentence. It has to be attention-grabbing and informative.  This is often as far as we go before skipping to...

The second paragraph. What’s in it for me?

Then we scan down the page looking for…

  •  Bullet points
  • Clear, concise benefits
  • Calls to action
  • See what I mean?

5.       Because I’m worth it

In short, I can make you money. You can concentrate on expanding your business and in the meantime, I can do the following for you:

  • Get your website noticed by search engines
  • Grab the attention of your market
  • Highlight the benefits of your product, service or idea
  • Create a clear call to action
  • Convert your visitor into a new customer

Have I persuaded you? Marvellous. Here I am.