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web copy is from Mars

Web Copy Is from Mars, Print Is from Venus

by Caroline Coxon

As a copywriter, I’m often asked to write text for both website and print – brochures, magazine articles, information leaflets, even eBooks.

How often have you, the client, thought along these lines? “Whoop, whoop! I’ll only need one piece of writing because I can use it in multiple contexts.”

Be warned! Writing copy for print is one thing; web copy is very different. Or rather, it should be, believe me!

Understand Your Customers’ Reading Habits
Printed Material

People read this when they’ve a bit of time on their hands and want an in-depth look at your products or services.

They will:

  • Start at the beginning and read through, scanning left to right, paragraph by paragraph.
  • Expect complete grammatical sentences with proper punctuation.
  • Absorb descriptions and anecdotes.

Then they’ll probably read it again…

What About Your Website?

Websites are for people in a hurry, wanting nuggets of actionable information quickly, to fulfil a specific search.

  • 79% of people skim online, absorbing only 75% of the content. (Concise, scannable, and objective by John Morkes and Jakob Nielsen)
  • They may start half way down a page and scan centre-left-right.
  • They usually ignore blocks of text, only picking out headlines, captions and summaries.

Oh, and they really hate scrolling.

The fact is: the longer the web copy, the less likely it is that it’ll be read by your prospective customers.

If they can’t find what they’re looking for in double-quick time – bounce! – they’ll move on. What a missed opportunity for you!

Guidelines For Your Web Copy

It should be at least 50% shorter than text for your printed material, in short coherent chunks with zippy headlines.

Careful thought must be given to keywords so that searches bring clients to your site.

It should be written for scannability, taking into account design elements which have so much additional impact.

Web copy should be concise, factual and actionable.

A Copywriter’s Lament…

More whoop-whooping from clients? “So, you’re saying you’re only going to write a short piece? That’ll take less time and be cheaper, then!”

Sorry… Take it from me that writing effective web copy may take longer, even though it’s shorter!

(Once, I was sent ten pages of information and asked to reduce it to thirty-five words!)

Make Words Work For Your Business!

Tailor your copy for different contexts.

Better still, spend your time doing what you’re good at in your business and employ a good copywriter who can use words to inspire, engage and increase profitability.


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