Blog, tweet or product description, making your copy as clear and simple as you can is essential to communicating what you’re trying to say.
People’s attention online is absolutely minimal, so you need to make sure you know what you want to say – and say it.
Here’s a breakdown of why keeping your copy clear is essential with a few tips for writing with more clarity.
- Be clear about your message and, importantly, its purpose.
Not having a clear message to communicate is the main pitfall for many people trying to write short, engaging copy.Rather than trying to pack in three or four key bits of information, come up with three short sentences that clearly explain each. The aim is to strip back the complexity of your ideas and communicate them in a way that is easy to read. “We’re in the clarity business, simplifying people’s convoluted ideas and wresting their wild, out-of-control text into something more civilized and comprehensible.”–Content Rules by Ann Handley and C.C. ChapmanYou must also be very clear about the purpose of a piece of copy. What is the specific call to action for this piece? What do we want to get from it? Answering these questions before you start typing is, again, essential. Tell people what your point is and what you want them to do. It’s that simple!
2. Consider the way you read things online.
The reason listicles have become so popular is how quickly you can digest all of the information and then move on. If you’re reading the New Yorker you expect the journalist to flex his or her literary muscles, but not so much in the About Me page of a new burger joint.
The internet has become an inherently visual landscape. The words you use are signposts that help the reader navigate their way around. If someone sees a big block of text they’ll abandon ship in an instant. You have to make every word count, ditch adverbs and use adjectives sparingly. Using everyday language is also important. Scrap the word ‘utilise’ from your vocabulary, you don’t utilise your phone – you use it!
3. Cut out all jargon.
“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
– Albert Einstein
Just to be clear this doesn’t mean dumbing down what you’re trying to say. People are busy. The simpler your content is to understand the quicker they can get on with what they are trying to do. You’re not talking down to people, you’re saving them time.
Avoiding jargon doesn’t mean you should cut out all long words, you should certainly use them when it’s appropriate.
It means steering clear of phrases that will alienate a large part of your audience. Acronyms or industry terminology are a big no-no. People aren’t going to spend time looking up words to understand what you mean – so make sure they don’t have to!
4. Read your copy out loud.
When we talk to one another we don’t weave long, meandering sentences filled with words we don’t understand just to sound smart (with the exception of every single politician #satire).
If you read what you’ve written out loud – or have someone else read it out lout to you – you’ll instantly spot phrases that don’t sound right or that make you falter. You want short sentences that don’t sound robotic and flow as if you were having a conversation.
Follow these steps and you’ll be well on the way to writing better copy whatever the platform or audience.
Have trouble communicating your ideas or engaging your customers on social media? Get in touch – it’s what we do!