Thursday, February 4, 2010

Short Copy Rules

Short Copy: Writing and Editing for the Web

There are all kinds of reasons to write short copy. For a website, it is essential.
  • Short copy aids scanning. Most visitors to your website will – at first at least – be scanning.
  • People are in a rush and short copy is less complex, easier to absorb.
  • Short copy is more inviting to the eye, especially to the lazy or rushed eye.
  • Longer copy creates boring gray blocks of text, short copy breaks up the gray with white.
  • Short copy tends to be written more in the vernacular, which is less formal and more relatable.
  • It’s easier to encapsulate individual messages or points into short bits of text.
  • Writing short forces you to edit down to your essential point and use the active voice.
As a writing process, write as you normally would, then edit down. You can tighten text very effectively simply by changing to the active voice. Using the active voice also makes your copy more assertive and more lively, your message more direct and compelling. Short, active copy makes strong sell copy. Use it wisely.

Use bullets to create lists of your points, and try to edit each bullet into one line of text. Because short copy tends to read more casual, it’s all right to break more formal writing conventions – just don’t overdo it. You want informal, not sloppy or unsophisticated. You may, for instance, begin a sentence with “but” or “so” or end it with a preposition, depending on your organization’s style.

Writing short copy involves shorter sentences and shorter paragraphs. You may be forgiven for one- or two-sentence paragraphs, two- or three-word sentences. Break paragraphs into thoughts, sentences into statements. Observe the KISS principle: Keep It Short and Simple!

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