Fact: Nobody’s going to buy from you if they think you’re an amateur. Or if they think you’re lazy. Or an imbecile. Or self-centred. But you’re probably making a whole bunch of mistakes in your website’s copy that convey exactly those sentiments.
Exclamation points your favourite bit of punctuation? Amateur. Or imbecile, depending on your point of view.
Text littered with clichés? Lazy.
Talking about yourself too much? Self-centred.
So here’s what I want you to do: go through every single page of your website with the following list in hand, making changes where necessary (and by ‘necessary’ I obviously mean ‘where I say so’).
1. Make it About Your Customers
This could mean rewriting entire swathes of your copy, so it’s best to do this one first.
Are your web pages focused on you? Or on your customers?
Thing is, your customers don’t care about you. They care about themselves, and about how you can help them. So go through every page and assess your me/my/I : you/your ratio.
Does the former drastically outweigh the latter? Then it’s time to switch things up. Rewrite your pages to bring the focus back onto your customers.
Oh, and for the love of GOD, do not use the first person plural (we) unless you are actually are a we. Or if you enjoy sounding like an untrustworthy asshole.
2. Ditch the Third Person Narrative
Know what using the third person narrative makes you sound like? Yeah. A pretentious douchenozzle. Or just like, super boring. Take your pick. Either way: it’s bad.
Use the first and second person narratives (I and you) to write in a way that will make your audience feel like you’re talking directly to them.
3. Be Casual
Yes, I’m going to recite the whole ‘write like you speak’ spiel here. Because it WORKS. Again: this is all about making connections with your readers. You don’t have to write exactly how you speak, obviously. But you should write how would you speak if you could edit the words that came out of your mouth.
4. Use Contractions
Contractions are my favourite way to make writing more casual. Mostly because they’re the easiest way to do it. You don’t need to do this at every available opportunity, but you should definitely include a good whack of apostrophes in your copy.
5. Watch Your Thats
Golden rule: only use ‘that’ when your sentence actually needs it to make sense. Otherwise, you’ll end up sounding robotic and weird. Not good. Unless you’re selling… Furbies, I guess?
6. Change Things to the Active Voice
This tip is designed to add a little more punch to your writing. Basically, in an active sentence the subject is the one doing the action. Learn more here.
7. Remove ALL Unnecessary Words
This goes for individual words, whole sentences, and even entire paragraphs. In particular, watch out for your intros and your conclusions.
You might think you’re being literary and smart, but you’re not. You’re being boring and making me want to skip to the end.
8. Get Rid of Any Clichés
Ditto on jargon, tech-speak and, well, everything that doesn’t actually MEAN anything. Stop being so lazy and actually think about the words you’re putting down.
9. Remove Exclamation Points
Did you try too hard to add character to your writing? It’s true: exclamation points DO add character. Unfortunately, it is the character of a 13 year old girl.
If you are a 13 year old girl, cool: go ahead and leave them in. If you’re not though? You sound like a desperate amateur. Probably not what you’re going for, right?
So get in there, ferret those exclamation points out, and replace them with their respectable older sister: the full stop.
(Believe it or not, I have to do this a lot. I know, right? I’m usually so calm and collected. But if you saw the first drafts of my emails, you’d definitely wonder whether I’d gotten my period yet.)
So obvious I almost don’t want to say it. But it’s amazing how many people don’t do this. Or do a pisspoor job at it, anyway.
A couple of tips for proofreading: a) read everything backwards so you’re not just gliding through your text like you already know what it says, and b) let it stew for a few hours before you come back to proofread, so you have chance to forget what you’ve written.
And that’s it: 10 simple ways to improve the copy on your website.
Don’t do a general sweep. Actually look for all the instances of these things on each page, one at a time, and you’ll be sure to catch ’em all. Like Pokemon, only less time-consuming and more academically satisfying.