The five website copy crimes you should avoid committing

Your website is your hardest-working employee. No days off, no holiday and it sells for you even while you sleep. You should make sure the site is doing the best job it can and not turning people off with simple mistakes that could be costly.

Take this checklist and go through each page of your site and fix any errors you spot. You don’t even have to do it all at once – because Google favours sites that are updated regularly you could take 20 minutes to do a page a week and reap the SEO benefits.

  1. Waffling on. To borrow an excellent piece of advice from George Orwell’s ‘Politics and the English Language’: “If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out”. Web users scan text and don’t want to wade through slabs of text. Keep it tight.
  2. Outdated phrases: For example: ‘This website aims to provide…’ feels old fashioned because the navigation really ought to show you what the site provides. If you can’t see at a glance what the site offers then you might have a design or information architecture problem. As a rule – if you wouldn’t say it out loud, don’t write it. See more like this.
  3. Pitching at the wrong level: It’s annoying when a site seems to expect that you know all about the issue/product/company when you don’t. Explain your position clearly and link to any relevant pages or external sites that would answer any questions someone might have. Warning: There is a balance between clarity and being patronising!
  4. Using long words: The average reading age of users may be lower than you expect (we’re talking teenager here). Couple this with users’ preference to scan text online then you should be using short words, simple sentences and grouping these into small paragraphs for a better reading experience.
  5. Spelling and grammar errors: It looks unprofessional, shows a lack of attention to detail and will cost you money.

When you’re writing your web copy you should imagine you’re just talking to one person. Take the time to explain your product in simple language to make sure they see all the features and benefits. With a bit of tidying up your website will work harder than ever for you.

Written by Christine Cawthorne

Christine Cawthorne is a senior level content producer with years of experience working for organisations such as the BBC, AOL, and Yahoo!.

She runs Crocstar Media, a copywriting agency that produces web content for global corporations and advises small businesses on their social media campaigns. Christine recently presented a workshop at Social Media Week London 2011 titled ‘Sweet Retweets: How to write for social media’.

Christine also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate journalism students at the University of Sheffield. The courses are accredited by the industry’s principal training organisations: the NCTJ, the PTC and the BJTC.

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