Captivate with these copy secrets

December 7, 2009

Some people aren’t familiar with the term “copy writing”.  People outside of PR and journalism circles usually just call it “writing”. It’s  shorthand for writing content for websites, brochures , newsletters, articles etc.  Whatever kind of writing you undertake, clean, compelling copy is your goal. Jason Cohen offers a list of 10 secrets for more magnetic copy in a recent Copyblogger post. It’s an excellent list.

I would add two other secrets.

1. Shorten paragraphs

When I am editing the copy of others, I often have to break up a number of paragraphs that include more than one topic and simply go on too long. To keep your reader engaged and moving through the content, short paragraphs of no more than 3-4 sentences are best. This goes along with Jason’s secret #5, “Use short sentences”:

Short sentences are easy to read. They’re easy to digest. It’s easier to follow each point of an argument. Sometimes longer sentences — especially if divided up with dashes — are an appropriate tool, especially mixed in with shorter sentences to break things up. If you think short sentences are incompatible with excellent writing, read Stephen King. Or Hemingway. Or Basho.

Readers are overwhelmed by large tracts of text and after a while the content becomes difficult to follow. So, break it up as much as possible. Use bullets to make lists easier to read—even if it’s only two or three items.

2. Take care with structure

Make sure that what you’re writing follows a logical structure, with one point leading to the next. Also avoid changing tenses—pick one and stick with it.  I also often see writing on websites that ignores its own headings. Content that should go under “customer service”, for example, ends up in the “about us” section. Make sure that the copy under your headings fits.

As Jason points out, readers frequently scan for information without reading an entire document or page. Make sure they can find the content they are looking for easily.

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