9 Tips for Writing Effective Web Copy

Web copy

Writing for the web is totally different from writing for print publications or writing a book. Print publications have a limited amount of space, but on the web you have unlimited space and very limited attention.

Here are 9 tips for tailoring your copy to capture as much of that attention as possible.

Tip #1: Keep your copy tight

Say what you want to say, as briefly as possible. Then stop. You don’t want to say the same thing several different ways in order to emphasize your point. That will only bore your readers.

Tip #2: Write Short Paragraphs

Along those same lines, you want to avoid long paragraphs at all cost. Nothing screams “Don’t read this!!!” louder than huge blocks of text. A good rule of thumb is to keep your paragraphs 3-5 lines in length.

This same rule applies to sentences. Keep them short and sweet.

Tip #3: Use Headings

Headings help break up the monotony of simple text, and they make your writing easier to scan. Remember, on the web, attention is in limited supply. You want to make your work scan-friendly. 

Additionally, headings help you organize your thoughts into a logical outline, which improves the quality of your writing.

Tip #4: Use Bullet Points and Numbered Lists

  1. They help break up the monotony of text,
  2. They are super easy to scan, and
  3. They are fun to write. 🙂

Use bullet points and numbered lists anytime you find yourself writing a list. Even if each item is a paragraph, a bullet-point list can be very effective. Just put a line break between each item (in WordPress, press shift + enter for a line break that doesn’t end the bullet point or numbered list sequence).

Tip #5: Avoid big words and complicated phraseology

Michael Hyatt says it best:

I love language, so I am often tempted to use big words. However, I have learned to avoid this. My goal is to communicate, not to impress my readers with my vocabulary.

A cardinal rule of good web design to avoid making your visitors think. This same principle applies to web copy as well as design. It shouldn’t be work to understand what you’re saying.

Tip #6: Use Emphasis Sparingly

Underlines, bolded text, and italics are all very good tools for emphasis, but it’s easy to overuse them.

In order to create the effect of emphasis, these elements have to be used sparingly. In addition, there’s no quicker way to make your writing look cluttered than to underline every other sentence and bold or italicize the rest.

Additional tip: Never use all-caps. They are hard to read and they’re the internet-equivalent to shouting.

Tip #7: Use Images

Images provide a delightful visual break in contrast to the words. You want at least one picture, and if it’s a long post/page, it’s better to have several. Unless they are really small images, don’t wrap the text around them.

“A picture speaks a thousand words,” as the saying goes, and the right pictures can really reinforce your writing.

Helpful resources:

Tip #8: Take the Time Needed to Craft a Good Title

The title is the single most important part of a blog post, both from a reader perspective and an SEO perspective. Your titles need to be irresistibly click-worthy and they need to incorporate good keywords.

The most effective bloggers sometimes spend almost as much time crafting the right title as they spent writing the post.

Helpful resources:

Tip #9: Know When to Hire an Expert

Sometimes, the level of expertise needed is just beyond most of us. That’s when it’s time to hire a professional copywriter. Here are some some times when hiring a professional can be a good investment:

  • If you are writing sales copy
  • If you need to boost your SEO
  • If you need help with branding
  • If you think “Welcome to my website” is a good way to start your homepage (hat-tip to James L. Rubart for that one)

What are your tips for writing good web copy? I’d love to read them in the comments!