The second rule of thumb is, ensure your audience understands your main message from the beginning.
In this tutorial, I’m going to show you how to write content that is effective and concise.
You will learn how to write using plain English, reduce the number of words you use, and make your content accessible to everyone.
Why is this important? Because, we humans are impatient. We scan websites to find information, answers and solutions. We don’t go there looking for a great read.
In fact, over 80% of users will leave a webpage in less than 30 seconds if they don’t find what they are looking for!
Writing web content that’s accessible to everyone
Make your content as easy to read as possible by using common, everyday language. And don’t use 3 words when one will suffice!
Keep in mind that it’s more difficult to read from a screen than paper; and potential customers may have difficulty reading, or English may be their second language. Therefore write so a 12 year old can easily understand your content.
Unless you are writing for audiences who are experts in your field, don’t use technical terms.
Some examples of everyday language include:
several NOT a number of
find out NOT ascertain
in September NOT during the month of September
about NOT in relation to
use NOT utilise
until NOT until such time as
For more examples of everyday language visit GOV.AU writing styles
Use the active voice
Compare these two sentences:
- “The team discussed the issue”.
- “The team had a discussion about the issue”.
The first uses the active voice (subject-VERB-object). The message is straight to the point, is easy to understand, and reduces the number of words on a page.
The passive voice is more complicated and reduces clarity.
Pronouns like I, we, you, us make your content friendlier and help you connect with your audience.
Use numbers and symbols
Replace words with numbers and symbols, such as 9, $, +, &, where possible. This makes it easier to scan your content.
Know your product
OK, so you understand the concept of writing in plain English, so let’s start writing!
But hang on. Firstly, do you know what you want to say? And do you know who you want to say it to?
Before you start, ask yourself, what is the purpose of my content? Write down what it is you want to achieve. Then work out your most important message as well as secondary and less important messages. This is the order they should appear on your page.
Then ask yourself, who is my audience? Are they a sophisticated audience, or mum and dad users of your services? This will determine your tone of voice and language. Regardless of who your audience is, however, don’t use jargon. Write so everyone can understand your content.
Get to the point
Put the most important information first to ensure your readers know from the beginning what your main message is. And tell them what’s in it for them. What will THEY gain from using your service or buying your product?
For example, a client of mine installs slate roofs. So the first line of content on his website reads:
“Add value to your home with beautiful, enduring, natural slate tiles.”
Another example is:
“Dramatically slash your future electricity bills with a [YOUR NAME] solar system.”
Short is sweet
Use short sentences. Try for a maximum of 20 words. And start a new sentence for each new idea.
Break up large bodies of content into smaller blocks. In fact, limit each paragraph to around 3 sentences.
Use bullet points when you have lists. And use meaningful subheadings and images to break up content and make your webpage easier to scan.
Search engine optimisation
Research the keyword phrases that your audience is likely to enter into search engines. Choose one phrase per page and use it in the:
- body copy
- image ‘alt’ tags
- meta heading and data
Call to action!
Towards the end of the content, tell your audience what you would like them to do next with a call-to-action. For example: