Having and maintaining a great website is crucial to any competitive brand’s marketing and communications plan, but the idea of writing content—or editing existing material—for a website launch (or redesign) can seem daunting for the non-writers among us.
How can I get my unique message across while still sounding legitimate and professional?
The answers to these questions vary depending on a brand’s unique goals and audience, but know this: your current and future website visitors will judge you based on how you speak to them via your brand. These judgements may be subconscious—impressions made when reading about your services or browsing your products—but nonetheless, their feelings about your business are directly influenced by your web content.
As a content strategist and copywriter, I recommend putting in the work to develop a keen content strategy that covers brand voice, tone, and content styles. But in the meantime, I’ll let you in on a little secret of the trade: There are plenty of easy ways to ensure your brand sounds professional online (without a lot of effort).
KEEP IT SHORT & SIMPLE
Coming to digital work from an editorial background, one of the hardest lessons to learn was that web users will not read my writing if it is too long or too complex. Unlike a magazine or blog reader, website visitors are on a mission—motivated, task-oriented shoppers or browsers looking for specific information, products, or services. In other words, the typical web user is busy, their attention span is limited, and they ain’t got time to waste.
“Give me everything I need and nothing I don’t.” That's the mindset of a motivated site visitor.
Create the shortest version of your page content that still shares all crucial messaging.
CUT THE FLUFF
Create webpage content that is concise and to the point. Don’t waste a reader’s time with industry jargon, boilerplate sales language, or any words, phrases, or sentences that lack a distinct purpose. Every sentence should serve a purpose, even if that is simply reinforcing brand voice and tone.
For example, we can take a paragraph like this:
Our passion is for meaningful and thoughtful design; we truly believe it has the power to bring people together and create environments where they can flourish. This has been the motivating force that has driven us for nearly 90 years.
And make it more direct:
For nearly 90 years, it's been our mission to leverage meaningful, thoughtful design to bring people together—creating environments where they can truly flourish.
Write a first draft, and read it again—cutting any sentence or phrase that isn't explicitly valuable for a potential customer or client in some way.
DEATH TO THE RUN-ON
Website content should always strive to be concise, interesting, and engaging, but you don’t have to get every point across all in one breath. Run-on sentences are the most commonly seen grammar infraction in our client’s draft content, but they can easily be avoided. The easiest way to correct run-ons is with a period, but semicolons (;), commas with a conjunction (comma + and/but/or), and em dashes (—) are also friends to the multi-part sentence. As a general rule, opt to separate individual thoughts and topics into their own statements.
Brush up on run-on sentences, and then create a page of web content. Pass it to a colleague to read, and give them a quick pop quiz about the main points of the page:
Where did my reader lose focus? Was anything important lost in the clutter?
FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK RULES
A brand’s website is a great place to “lift the hood” on its core process, unique personality, culture, and differentiators. Let the individuality of your brand run wild in your website content, but stick to being grammatically correct in order to maintain a professional brand voice online.
One Space After Each Period: Modern web content calls for just one space after each period. Using the typewriter era two-space rule makes for a more disruptive read online, and stands out to younger web users.
Avoid Ellipses: The infamous ‘dot-dot-dots’ are a personal pet peeve of mine, but for good reason. These oft-abused devices are intended for an incomplete thought, but are often simply added to the end of a complete sentence when a simple period would do. Be confident in your content; complete your thoughts and sentences, period.
Title Case Your Headers (But Not Your Articles): Differentiate your page headers and subheaders by title casing them, but bear in mind that capitalizing articles—words such ‘and,’ ‘for,’ and ‘to,’ among others—or capitalizing other words that just shouldn't be can look and feel gimmicky or spammy to a reader.
Know the Protocol for There/Their/They’re, Your/You’re, and Its/It’s: I promise, this really does matter. These common mistakes aren’t just a headache for the grammar police who happen upon your website. Any user encountering these errors may form a negative impression of your brand, deeming it less professional and assuming it lacking in attention to detail.
Ready to go deeper into the world of web copy? We’re your word nerds for hire.