There is no easy way to say this.
The writing we see on websites these days makes us cringe.
Not all websites, mind you. There is a lot of high-quality content out there. But dang it, there just isn’t enough.
Look, we get it. You just want to write that blog post and hit publish so it’s out there. Or you really want to get an awesome sales page up for your new product ASAP. Who has time to really proofread anyway? Besides, your customers won’t notice spelling errors or missing punctuation. And grammar? Eh. Close enough, right?
Your writing reflects on your brand. It reflects on who you are. You do not want silly writing mistakes to overshadow otherwise great content. Your audience will notice.
This all goes back to first impressions. Do you want the first impression people have of your business or blog to be sloppy? Lazy? How about careless? Or thoughtless?
We didn’t think so.
You’ve got enough to deal with when it comes to attracting and retaining an audience or customer base. Like trying to determine what your next viral post will be, or creating a sales funnel strategy that converts, or deciding how much you should budget for Facebook ads. You do not want to worry about losing potential leads because of bad writing.
In today’s crowded digital marketplace, where everyone is vying for attention, there is no room for mediocrity.
Oh, sure, there may be an anomaly here or there—a business that gains a following in spite of their mistakes. But for the most part, well-written, well-designed businesses and blogs will edge out their competition every time.
Not sure where to begin to improve the writing on your website? Well, there are at least seven things that may be wrong with the writing on your website. Here they are:
A missing period is not the end of the world. Even seasoned writers and their editors sometimes fail to find them. What we’re talking about is writing that fails to follow standard punctuation rules at every turn. Unfortunately, we see these errors everywhere…
- Yes, if you write a sentence it should have punctuation at the end <— Right there at the end.
- Stop putting apostrophe’s where they don’t belong. And dont forget one when its necessary.
- Exclamation marks should be used sparingly! And never use more than one!! Please!!!!
- High grade writing uses hyphens when combining two words into an adjective. Like high and grade.
- The em dash is your friend. Many people even really smart ones do not know how to make it or use it. A pair of em dashes would have been useful in that last sentence.
- We think you should use the Oxford comma, please. Many people like them, including my parents, Meg Cabot and Neil deGrasse Tyson. (See, the Oxford comma in that last sentence would have made it clear that Meg and Neil are not my parents.)
Solution: The fixes to punctuation problems are pretty easy. Consult trusted writing authorities. Learn the rules of punctuation. Carefully proofread. Have a friend read it. Edit. Rinse. Repeat.
A whole book could be written on spelling. Wait… They already did that? Oh, yeah. Some guy named Webster wrote one.
Solution: Besides going old school with a dictionary, your computer’s spell check (and auto correct) should catch and correct most errors. But not all. Remember to look for mistakes that spell check would not see, like the incorrect usage of your/you’re and to/two/too. If you constantly have trouble with those kinds of errors, it may not be a spelling error, but rather a usage error. Brush up on these and other similar common usage mistakes.
And watch auto correct carefully. We’ve all seen the carnage created by it… Damn you autocorrect.
Grammar is one of those things that must be done right. Otherwise your writing will lack credibility. You want to be an authority, and poor grammar will not get you there. So you should learn about subject-verb agreement, run on sentences, dangling modifiers, and passive voice.
Solution: If you’re not grammatically inclined, consult writing authorities and writing guides to help correct grammatical errors. Word processors include grammar checkers in addition to spell checkers, so you should think about writing blog content in Word or some other word processor and run a grammar checker before moving it over to your blog or website copy. There are some other online solutions as well, Grammarly being one of them. As with the other errors, having another pair of editing eyes will help immensely. One thing is certain: you do not want the grammar police knocking on your door after you hit the publish button.
WRITING CONTENT THAT DOES NOT MATCH YOUR BRAND
Chapter 2 Creative is all about helping businesses, nonprofits, and bloggers create a brand that people will know, like, and trust. It would be completely wrong if we wrote a blog post about my grandmother’s chocolate mint brownie recipe. No matter how awesome the writing was and no matter how delicious the brownies tasted, Chapter 2 Creative followers would be thoroughly confused by a recipe post.
And the content shift doesn’t even have to be that far flung to throw readers off. What if we started providing reviews of computers without tying them to design or branding? While the information may be interesting and perhaps even useful, that content does not tightly align with our brand. Pretty soon we would confuse people about what we do.
And audience confusion is never good.
Solution: Once you have solidified your brand, you must not confuse your audience. Ever. Consistency is king when it comes to branding, and that definitely includes your writing. Whether it is a blog post or website copy, your brand should always be recognizable. Your brand is what sets you apart. Your audience will recognize you not only by how you look, but by what you say and how you say it.
And plainly, you do not want your audience to say, “I’m really not sure what they do, but dang, they have a killer brownie recipe.”
So, whenever you are writing anything, keep in mind your brand promise, your brand personality, and your brand strategy. Align your writing to those principles and your audience will know exactly who you are and why they should listen to you.
LACK OF A CONSISTENT, UNIQUE VOICE
YO, MY PEEPS! This writing post is da BOMB! I knew you would fall in love with it my super unicorn tribe HOTTIES! So let me give you the 411 on using a consistent, unique voice!
I think you get the picture. That voice is not consistent with the Chapter 2 Creative brand. It may be appropriate for some sites and for some audiences (but frankly, we think it may be a little overdone these days). Your voice should reflect your brand values. It should again reflect your brand personality. It should be consistent with how your website looks and feels and it should be exactly what your audience wants and expects.
For example, while branding can be fun, creative, exciting, and empowering, it’s a serious topic requiring our audience to trust us, trust our judgment, trust our process, and trust that we can help them create a brand that people will know, like and trust. We feel our voice needs to reflect our passion and commitment to our audience in a highly professional manner. So we aren’t going to throw down a bunch of F-bombs to make a point.
Oh, you can bet we can sometimes swear like drunken sailors, but probably not here. Here, in this space, our voice—the voice of Chapter 2 Creative—is not that.
Solution: Like the solution to keeping your content consistent, you must avoid confusing your audience with a voice that does not match your brand. You’ll have a unique, authentic voice that will align with your brand strategy if you put in the time upfront to understand what your brand is—and what it isn’t. Don’t try to be something you’re not. It may be tempting to follow trends and fads and use all the slang the kids are using these days. Don’t do it—unless of course your brand is all about the latest fashion and lifestyle trends. Then by all means, pop dem tags.
Or whatever the kids are saying these days.
ABSENCE OF STORYTELLING
Using storytelling to solidify a brand is a tool that many—if not most—businesses forget to use when communicating with their customers. Many times it’s just business as usual. No story. No emotion. Like this:
Company: “I have a product to sell. Would you like to buy my product? It’s a good product. You should buy my product.”
Customer: “No thanks.”
Company: “Okay. I have other products. Would you like to buy those products instead?”
Customer: “I’m actually just looking for funny cat videos.”
The true benefit of brand storytelling is the emotional connection you make with your audience. Once your audience cares about your brand, they are more likely to buy your product, remain loyal, and tell others how awesome you are.
Solution: How to use storytelling to help your brand is a subject that requires far more time than what a blog post and a few examples can provide, but I can leave you with these quick tips:
- Hook your audience at the beginning and move them through an emotional story to a satisfying ending.
- Make sure the pacing is right for the story you are telling and for your brand. Frenetic pacing probably won’t work well if you are selling a book on meditation. But all stories must be page turners. You want your audience to keep moving forward, no matter the pace.
- Your characters (you, your customers, etc.) must be relatable. They must have personality. They must be likable. Give your audience a reason to root for them.
- Don’t forget about setting, atmosphere, and place. The right setting can put your audience in the story. If you can appeal to your audience’s senses with a compelling atmosphere and sense of place, you can better create an emotional connection.
- We don’t have to remind you that you should always strive to be authentic. Audiences can easily sniff out brands that try to be something they are not. Follow your brand promise and stay true to your values.
And the last tip is probably the most important for storytelling.
- NEVER be boring. Ever.
WALL OF TEXT
You’ve landed on websites that look promising, but as you scroll down, all you see are lines and lines and lines of text.
Oh, sure. There may be some really important stuff in there. Maybe all of it is important. But your audience won’t be around long enough to read it all. They will skim if you are lucky, but most times they will say, “I’m outta here” and they will bounce to an easier experience on someone else’s site.
Some websites take this to the extreme and make every sentence its own paragraph. That may not be necessary and may be wrong for your brand, but it illustrates the point. It gives readers bite-size pieces of text and drives them to the next sentence.
And the next.
And the next one.
Until they end up where you want them to be.
Solution: Keep your paragraphs short. Use lots of white space. Break up text with images or other design elements. Use short, succinct sentences. But remember to also vary sentence length and structure so your writing ebbs and flows, rises and falls, and keeps your readers interested in what you are saying.
Bottom line: Don’t scare your audience away by building a wall of text they have to scale to get to your point. Don’t use eleven words when you can say it in three. Actually what I meant to say is this: Don’t be verbose.
■ ■ ■
I encourage you to take a look at your website copy and blog writing and identify any areas that need improvement. Start with the basics: punctuation, spelling, and grammar. When you’ve cleaned that up, move on to style and structure and storytelling.
What writing problems have you encountered in your own writing? How have you solved them? Leave a comment below!