Cutting your own website copy and how to do it

Keep your sentences short, but your copy long.

OK, so it’s not quite up there with the “Keep your friends close but your enemies closer” line from The Godfather Part II but if that sentence is all that you remember from this blog then I will have done my job.

First, we’re going to look at the “keep your sentences short” part of that sentence.

When I was a journalist, my speciality was “sub-editing” – basically the job of making sure the reporters’ articles make sense, don’t libel anyone, don’t contain any grammar or spelling errors and, most importantly, fit in the space allocated them in the newspaper.

I absolutely loved it. Cutting copy comes naturally to me and I find it almost impossible to read anything without mentally cutting it as I go through.

It’s a very useful skill to have because keeping sentences short keeps the reader’s attention.
It stops them nodding off and forgetting what you’re talking about.

I encourage you all to try it. It’s really not so hard.

Let’s take a sentence that I wrote just a few paragraphs up.

“When I was a journalist, my speciality was “sub-editing” – basically the job of making sure the reporters’ articles make sense, don’t libel anyone, don’t contain any grammar or spelling errors and, most importantly, fit in the space allocated them in the newspaper.”

If it read like this, would it make any less sense?
“When I was a journalist, my speciality was ‘sub-editing’ – making sure reporters’ articles made sense, didn’t libel anyone, didn’t contain grammar or spelling errors and fitted in the space allocated them.”

It makes just as much sense, doesn’t it? And yet it contains 11 fewer words.

We use lots of words we don’t need to when writing, especially when we don’t enjoy it. Words like “basically”, “so” and “that” and phrases like “I decided I would…”, “in my opinion” and “what I did was”.

Compare:

– I wanted to buy some socks, but I didn’t want to spend too much money, so what I did was go to Primark because in my opinion their socks are quite nice and value for money too.

– I went to Primark for some socks because they are value for money and I like them.

If you don’t much like writing, you see it as a chore to be completed. You don’t want to go over it after writing it in the first place. It’s too much like hard work.

But it really does make a difference to the reader and it can actually be quite fun. It’s like a challenge – how many words can I cut out of this sentence without losing its meaning?

Give it a try.

Now onto the second part of my opening line: Keep your copy long.

This was a revelation to me.

Drayton Bird, who has been writing sales copy since before I was knee high to a grasshopper, says that emails containing many, many words generate more sales than those with fewer.

I believe him.

I also know that if you’re writing pages or blogs for your website, Google likes it to be 500+ words.

That doesn’t mean writing very long sentences.

It means coming up with lots of reasons you are good at your job, or your service is extremely valuable, and covering every single reason for your potential customers to buy whatever it is you’re selling.

Extra tip: If you are writing website copy, make sure your enormous slab of words is regularly broken up on the page with Google- and reader-friendly headings and “buy now” buttons.

It’s a bad idea to force your customer to scroll to the bottom of the page to buy, when they have decided they want to after the first paragraph.

If you’re on LinkedIn, connect with me using the button on the right. If you’d like to read all my LinkedIn posts about grammar and spelling, follow the hashtag #andrewonwriting by clicking this link here and selecting “follow”

 

more blogs

How to spot your stories

How to spot your stories

Whoever you are and whatever you do, chances are there is an organisation you know which would benefit from some extra publicity.

That could be a business you run, a group you are a part of – from the local Brownies troupe to the pub darts team – or a cafe or shop you like to frequent.

read more