Short, Direct Web Copy is Best

Posted on: April 22, 2015 by: DedePerkins

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Just like all of us, your web readers scan for information. Rather than taking the time to absorb, as they would with print, website visitors skim text looking for answers to specific questions, thoughts, and concerns. While searching for this information, the typical visitor reads only 28% of the words on a web page.

28% isn’t much, but on the bright side, you don’t need much copy to get your message across. The trick is distilling your information into powerful, precise copy. Here’s how to deliver.

Questions to ask yourself

Before you begin writing, answer the following questions:

  • What do I want the reader to KNOW after visiting my web page?
  • What do I want the reader to DO (call to action) before leaving my web page?

When you’ve figured out your message, craft copy that works with your site design and follows tried and true formulas.

Write to the F-shaped pattern

Research shows that web readers tend to read in an F-shaped pattern. This means they first focus on the top left corner of the page. Do yourself a favor and skip wordy introductions. Front load your message into the first two paragraphs so readers will get it right away.

Use the inverted pyramid

Journalists use the inverted pyramid technique, and you should too. Begin with your most important point and use secondary headings to summarize and add depth to your message.

  • Main Heading
  • Most important text
  • Secondary Heading
  • Supporting Text

Take advantage of headings

Use headlines and sub-headlines to emphasize important information. They’re easy to scan and naturally attract the reader’s eye. Because they’re brief, headings also allow for greater retention. Want a memorable heading? Consider phrasing it as a question.

New idea, new paragraph

Keep your ideas organized. Paragraphs should be short—four sentences maximum.

Make a list

Bulleted lists work well for web readers. White space on the page makes for a faster scan.

Keep it simple

Use everyday language rather than industry jargon. Every word should be necessary, no fluff allowed. Use fewer words than you think you need. Write in active voice (“I took action”) rather than passive voice (“Action was taken by me”).

Stick to one topic

Your audience is goal-oriented. They’ll scan for the information they need and move on. That means your page should be as straightforward and specific as possible.

Write for first-timers

Assume your reader has no prior knowledge of your topic. Don’t talk down to the reader, but be clear and direct. Adopt a friendly, conversational voice to draw in the reader and keep them engaged.

Use hyperlink text wisely.

“Click here” is passé. Explain in a few words what the reader will get by clicking on the link. Make them interested and excited.

Think beyond the text

Add images. Graphics, videos, and charts can illustrate your point quickly. Like white space, they break up the monotony of text and add visual interest.

How do the words look? Italics, bold face, highlights and font make a big difference. Think carefully about which text you want to stand out and how. Highlighted keywords, for instance, immediately catch the eye.

Be strategic about the call to action

Readers read from left to right (remember the F-shaped pattern). The last place their eye will go is the bottom right hand corner of the page. Try placing the call to action button there. This is not a hard and fast rule, however. Consider including multiple calls to action if appropriate. If your webpage doesn’t deliver as you believe it should, move the call to action and evaluate the results. Keep testing to maximize conversions.

After writing, revise, revise, revise

To summarize, put yourself in your potential clients’ shoes and write short, direct website copy that delivers the information they seek. Include a call to action that is easy—ask them to email, pick up the phone, sign up for additional information or a promotional product. If you’re unsure of your copy, ask a trusted associate, family member or friend to scan the copy and tell you—specifically—what they took from your message. As all good writers know, revision is key. Revise as many times as it takes to deliver meaningful copy that inspires your website visitors to take the action you seek.


Dede - headshot small Dede Perkins has over 25 years of writing, branding and marketing experience with businesses and non-profit organizations.

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