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…