Web Writing Mistakes

Tight Writing: Get Rid of “Flowery” Words

Articles, Blog, Blogging, Editing, How-To, Press Releases, Product Descriptions, Web Writing Mistakes, Website Content, Website Copy

When you’re writing for the web, you have 3 to 5 seconds to grab a reader’s attention.

That’s all you get – the time it takes for a reader to raise his or her coffee cup and take a sip. If you haven’t captured your visitors’ interest in that time, they’ll click the back button to find someone who does.

Even if you get past the 3-to-5-second mark, you still need to keep your readers’ interest.

You do that by keeping things short, pithy and to-the-point.

Get Rid of Flowery Words

One of the best books in the world — The Giver, by Lois Lowry — uses a phrase that’s incredibly important in writing for the web: precision of language. (That’s not an affiliate link, but if you buy The Giver through Amazon at that link, which is something you should definitely do, Amazon donates to the Wounded Warrior Project.)

Back to precision of language.

Check out the difference between these sentences:

  • She sipped the piping hot coffee, her eyes leisurely flicking over the smudged, raindrop-splattered newspaper without being able to discern between the blurred and bleeding letters.
  • She sipped the hot coffee, glancing at the wet newspaper. The letters were blurry.
  • She sipped her coffee and looked at the paper.

The first sentence is great… if you’re reading a romance novel. On the Internet, people don’t have that kind of time.

The second sentence is okay.

The third gets to the point.

It’s called purple prose in the writing world, and it’s the last thing you need when you’re trying to get someone to buy your product or service. You need things in black and white, and that’s it.

Precision of Language

Describe what you need to describe quickly and simply. People are coming to you because you have something they want, so give them the information in accurate, simple terms. Make it easy for them to read, too, by:

  • Breaking things up with subheads
  • Using bullet points or numbered lists where appropriate
  • Cutting out useless words
  • Getting straight to the point
  • Writing paragraphs that have no more than four sentences each

And for the love of Cthulu, don’t introduce what you’re about to write. It’s annoying and treats readers as if you assume they’re stupid. (Nobody is going to buy anything from someone who treats them like they’re stupid.)

Save Yourself the Trouble

Naturally, you could save yourself the trouble of slipping flowery words into your product descriptions, press releases or website copy and hire a professional writer. I know a girl…

Web Writing Mistake #1: The Introduction to What You Say

Blog, How-To, Web Writing Mistakes, Website Content, Website Copy

There’s nothing wrong with writing your own website content because you’re talented or you can’t afford to hire a copywriter. You just have to go about it the right way.

Web Writing Mistake #1: Introducing What You’re ABOUT to Say

Every pixel of space on your website is valuable, so you can’t afford to waste it. You have between 3 and 5 seconds to capture a reader’s interest. Beyond that, he or she is going to stay on your site and explore or click the “Back” button to see what your competitors have to say.

When you waste time stating the obvious, you’re not going to keep your readers’ interest very long. Skip straight to the point by:

  • Avoiding useless segues into bulleted lists
  • Steering clear of phrases such as “Below you will find…” and “Read on for more information”

Look at the difference between the way these two introductions read:

  • Here is a list you will find useful in making the decision to hire a personal injury attorney.

    1. Make sure you ask him how much experience he has.
    2. Have your documents ready in case he wants them.

  • If you’re hiring a personal injury attorney, you’ll need to ask him several questions, including:

    1. How much experience do you have with cases like mine?
    2. What documentation do you need from me to move forward with my case?

Why would you waste valuable space to introduce what you’re about to say? People aren’t stupid, so don’t treat them as if they are. You’re not writing a middle school book report; you’re writing something that needs to capture your audience’s attention and get them to work with you.

Skip the Hassle and Hire a Pro

Naturally, you could forget about all this (and ignore the silly rules of English) and hire someone else to write your copy for you. If that’s not feasible, that’s okay – just write the way you’d talk to a stranger and you should be able to pull it off.