Does Your Web Copy Survive a 5-Second Scan?

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People are busy, and in the digital age, they have more messages competing for their attention than ever before. Make sure your target audience spends some of their limited time and attention on your blog and your website by giving them what they want—good information, quickly.


Your web copy needs to be as easy to read as possible. Many people will scan your copy rather than take the time to read every word. If they can’t scan it quickly and get to the meat, they’ll leave—and probably won’t return.

Follow these tips to make sure your web copy passes the 5-second scan, and invites your reader to stick around:

  • Write in short paragraphs.Have you ever seen web copy that went on and on, with paragraphs that had 20 or 30 lines? You get lost and tired of reading. A long, rambling paragraph is the written version of the annoying person who walks up to you at a party and talks and talks.Write in paragraphs of no more than four to five lines or four or five sentences to ensure you don’t bore your prospects.
  • Keep sentences short, and make sure you use commas and periods when necessary. Long rambling paragraphs are the textual equivalent of saying whatever pops into your head—and there’s nothing more unprofessional than that. In addition, grammar isn’t just a formality. Punctuation allows your readers to take the literary breath required for clarity and understanding.Keep sentences to less than 20 words as much as you can. Use spacing liberally. People like white space because it’s easy on the eyes and less stressful and intimidating.
  • Use bulleted lists. Lists are easy to scan. Often, the first few words are all your reader needs, as you can see in the bulleted list you’re reading now. Even if you don’t read the web copy following the first phrase or sentence, you can apply each point immediately.
  • Eliminate extra words. One quick and easy way to make your copy more effective is to get rid of words that don’t mean anything, such as “really,” “just,” and “very.” If a word doesn’t add meaning or substance to the sentence, you don’t need it. Use fewer and shorter words whenever possible. For most copy, contractions sound more natural and are fine to use, but know your audience before using them.For example: “Require” is not as effective as “need.” Instead of “those are the coaches who,” simplify it to “the coaches.”
  • Help your reader get to the point with headings. If you have a blog post covering several aspects of gardening, for example, set off each point or section with a bold heading.If you’re talking about tilling, fertilizing the soil, and setting up an irrigation system, put a heading above each topic, letting the reader know exactly what that section covers. If your reader knows how to till and fertilize but needs tips on irrigation, he or she can go right to that section and save time.

As you write, you’ll come up with your own tricks to make your copy scannable. When in doubt, you can always poll your readers and ask what they like and don’t like.


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Michelle Salater

http://www.sumercopywriting.com

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