How to Speak the Reader’s Language in Writing Copy
A common mistake that many people make when writing web copy or website content online is to assume that all their readers have all the time in the world to read a lot of words and go through an entire sea of text. Another common assumption is that people believe and remember everything that they learn online. However, the online writing arena is so much more competitive than the offline world: printed words are meant to be read, but online words are meant to be skimmed.
When you are writing copy, you need to speak your reader’s language. This requires knowledge of both tone and structure. In terms of structure, you need to follow your reader’s thoughts: your reader is thinking in terms of ideas, so present them quickly and in palatable shots. Have all your salient points ready and available in subheadings or bullet points. This can make it easier for your reader to skim through your copy and find what he or she needs. This also makes it more inviting for your reader to actually go through the work: by providing white space, you also give your readers’ eyes the chance to rest once in a while.
Now that you have drawn your readers in and made them stay, it’s time for you to speak their language. Now this is a rather tricky deal: a lot of different parts of the population speak language differently, and every single person has his or her own native language that he or she is most fluent in or most comfortable using. You will need to tap into the most general of these languages: this means research on your part, say by doing a marketing study by looking at how people talk in different forums and mailing lists. You need to look at how people talk and find a way for you to sound like them, but not too much: remember, if you try too hard, your writing will show it.
Here are a few more tips on how to make your readers hear themselves in you:
– You need to make your visitors excited about your products and services, so excited that they will shell out some of their hard-earned money to buy them. This means that you need to keep your copy excited: be upbeat and enthusiastic, and avoid language that is depressing or dull, or that is bland and commonplace. Avoid going for negative statements: say what a thing is, not what it is not; better yet, say what a thing can offer. Give statements of potential and promise, and entice your reader.
However, be careful, as being too exciting can actually make you look desperate and hard selling. Desperation shows up easily online, so don’t be too uppity-up. Upbeat does not mean hyperactive, and neither does it mean reckless excitement.
– Grab attention at the beginning of your copy and do not beat around the bush. You will reinforce this at the end, but start your copy so that people know the point of it immediately. The best content, therefore, should be at the start and end of your web page, in order to grab attention, and then keep it and allow your visitors to take something home. Moreover, keep your ending memorable and upbeat, as this is what your visitors will remember about you.
– Keep it short and simple. If you are able to get the ideas out in a few words without your website visitors having to scroll ever so many times to get what you mean, then you have it made.