Tips to tighten up your text

Text is one of, if not the, most important communication method(s) available to a business. Like audio-visual communication, text is a creative media that can attract customers, signal professionalism, and create brand personality. And like any creative media, the act of writing requires trial and practice. We decided to share with you some easily implementable writing tips that will guide you towards achieving the goal of spreading the message of your business to the world!

1. Optimize for People AND for Robots

We write words for other people to read, but first those words go through a robot. Google and other search engines have built-in algorithms to rank websites, displaying better ones first. Optimizing a website to come first in search results is called SEO optimization, and coming first in a world where the average customer does not move beyond the first 3 or 4 links is a matter of survival. Optimizing your website for online success involves knowing the criteria based on which Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines rank websites.

The most common and important text optimization activity is picking the right words. Knowing what your customers type into search engines to locate desired products, services, and information is valuable insight that could and should impact how a company defines itself and its product. For example, if we were to start a company that sells sandals to a market where sandals are known as flip-flops, we ought to refer to our product as flip-flops and not sandals. Otherwise, potential customers will not find our company’s website via online search.

Other examples of SEO optimization concerning text include text length (some text falls below certain thresholds and is not considered by search engines), grammatical correctness, and structure. Yes, Google and others have found automated ways to measure the quality of writing. The rest of the tips in this blog have been chosen for their relevance to good writing in general and good online writing specifically.

1. Entitle with a purpose

A title or otherwise header on a website, in a newsletter, or in a blog post ought to achieve a purpose, such as add new information, summarise, or provide artistic value. An informative title might not be immediately understandable, but should synergise well with the text; a summative title is the most common type of title (eg. “about us,” “the team,” or “our services”); and artistic titles come in the form of philosophical or poetic quotes or otherwise sayings that speak to the values and principles of a business.

In addition, the keywords in titles ought to be chosen with search engines in mind. Google provides technical information concerning how it treats titles in search results. Keep these simple tips in mind when crafting your next title. And remember, most potential customers do not get past a bad title.

3. Write what is Relevant to YOUR Client...

Your business concept and the products and services that you provide are very close to you and you know them by heart. Understanding that your customers do not know much about you or your business might come hard to comprehend. You often need to step back from your own perspective and try to create an alternative one, which doesn’t involve any background knowledge.

For example a company selling air mattresses might talk about the interior construction of the mattress, which could in fact involve the most advanced fiber technology related to comfort. However, if the reader is not aware of that connection, or simply does not know about the importance of interior construction or what that means, it might be better, from a sales perspective, to highlight instead the features of the soft sleeping surface.

The “Voice of the Customer” is a business concept that captures this rule well. It is about tailoring your message to the customers’ expectations, preferences, and aversions. Businesses must resist the urge to prioritise technical facts over customers’ perceptions of what is important. At the end of the day, the customer is always right.

4. ...and Make it Immediately Relevant

None can deny most hits on a webpage come from skim-readers. As such, good websites must layer their text so it has something for the surface reader and the in-depth reader. Immediate relevance means informative titles, strong first sentences, and good overall structure. Readers must not search entire paragraphs for the main idea. It should come to them, and not the other way around.

5. Avoid Adjectives, “Very,” and Other Jargon

“Good writing accurately describes an important message very well.”
“Great writing describes a message well.”

Outside of context, it might not be clear why the second, shorter sentence is better than the first. The thing is that “accurately,” “important,” and “very” bring nothing new to the sentence but the writer’s own emphasis. Removing 3 words (33% of the words) from the first sentence allows us to elaborate with new meaningful substance that, ultimately, proves more convincing that emphasizing old content. For example, the text could continue: “Great writing describes a message relevant to the receiver.” Sparing 3 words from the first sentence allowed us to construct one of equal word count but superior in meaningful word count.

In using many adjectives, what we are doing is forcing our own interpretation onto the reader, when the most convincing writing allows readers to build their own interpretation of the presented facts. That is not to say adjectives, exaggerations, or otherwise manners of stressing a point are entirely useless, but that the best writing uses them sparingly with the understanding that most of the time less is more.

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