While the old saying is true – you should write how you speak – that’s much easier said than done, particularly when you’re writing for your website.
As a key component of your marketing strategy, you want your site to hightlight your skills and expertise. You also want it to seem friendly, approachable, and reflective of your business’s personality. Often this impacts the language you use, and a little ‘padding’ and ‘elevation’ creeps into your content.
In my experience, there are three types of words you need to look out for when writing for the web…
Words that exaggerate
Customers generally don’t respond well to content that’s too ‘salesy’. So, while you should focus on your product or service’s best features, don’t go too far by claiming it’s:
- “The most…”: Unless you have evidence (e.g., awards, results of an independent public survey or vote, etc.) that what you’re selling is best in class, making this claim will undermine the value of your product or service.
- Great/Fantastic/Excellent/Amazing: These are self-assessed terms that are highly subjective (i.e., there’s no set standard for “excellent” customer service). As such, they mean nothing to a customer, who will most likely skip over them.
- 100% Guaranteed: Speaking in absolutes can make customers question your credibility. Also, offering a guarantee raises the question of why your product/service needs one.
Try using customer testimonials instead. This will allow you to use a lot of the same messaging, but it will carry extra weight because you’re not saying it about yourself – it needs to be genuine customer feedback, though.
Words that are too formal
Website copy is different from other content you may write, like business reports and even blog posts. As you want it to have a broad appeal, the language you use needs to be easy for the average reader to understand. This means avoiding terms like:
- Utilising/Visualising/Facilitating: As there are much easier alternatives (using/seeing/helping), using words like these makes it seem like you’re trying too hard, and are off-putting to customers.
- However/Therefore/Additionally: Website copy should be short and sharp, so shouldn’t need such formal transitions.
- Pioneering: Few things are truly “revolutionary” and, due to the pace of technology change, they don’t stay “cutting edge” for long. Customers are far more interested in hearing about how your product/service will help them – not that it’s the first to do so.
Try to keep your copy to a couple of key points. Also, focus on the details of your product/service and explain them in a way that would make sense to an average 14-year-old.
Words that mean nothing
As most people skim web pages (rather than read them word-for-word), your content needs to be clear and concise to keep customers engaged. Adding unnecessary words to your copy can also make it seem like you’re uncertain about what you’re saying. To keep your language tight, avoid words like:
- Really/Very/Just/Only: While these words do add depth and intensity in certain circumstances, they slow down the reader and detract from the point of your content.
- Currently/Actually: These words rarely add anything to a sentence, so they can easily be left out without impacting what you’re trying to say.
- Obviously: Not only is obviousness subjective (what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to others), it’s redundant to say (if something is truly obvious, why does it need to be pointed out?).
Try editing your copy down to half the length of your first draft. This will help you weed out any over-the-top words and focus on your key messages.