Schoolhouse Rock. Web Edition.
I'm sorry to disappoint, but I won't be singing for you today. That said, if you're looking for a catchy grammatical tune, this one deserves a Grammy. "Conjunction junction, what's your function?" Pure brilliance.
By now you've probably realized that I'm a grammar nerd. But here's something you don't know: as a copywriter and content strategist, my job often entails forgetting about grammar. It sounds strange, I know. How can a writer not keep grammar top-of-mind?
Well, writing for the web isn't about grammar; it's about users — fulfilling their needs in a manner that resonates.
Unlike book-readers or magazine-flippers, web users consume content with a specific task in-mind. They're typically looking for information that will answer their question quickly and efficiently. Because of this, they do not read website content word-for-word; instead, they scan a site until they find what they're looking for. And if they don't find it fast enough? They're gone within 15 seconds. (Yes, that's a real statistic. I'm not making it up!) According to this article in TIME Magazine, "a stunning 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page."
So how do you write for an audience that only wants to scan your content? You follow these rules – Interactive Strategies' own edition of Web House Rock (part one).
RULE #1: USE KEY WORDS. Put yourself in the minds of your users. What words and phrases would they type into search engines when looking for your content? Figure out what they are and then use them – doing so will naturally optimize your website for search engines. Not to mention, your content will be more understandable to your audience because you'll be using words that they use (even if the words are not part of your chosen vocabulary).
RULE #2: USE ACTIVE VOICE. Avoid the passive voice and write your content in an actionable manner. What does this mean? Instead of saying, "our leaders were trained by the president," structure the sentence as, "the president trained our leaders." The active voice is easier to read and more likely to resonate with your audience. Additionally, direct statements like "Join us," "Contact us," and "Learn more" are far more effective at increasing conversions than passive requests.
RULE #3: USE PRONOUNS. If you want your content to be cleaner and more approachable to your audience, you have to engage conversationally. In other words, avoid referring to your company or organization in third-person. Don't say, "Interactive Strategies believes in collaboration." Say, "We believe in collaboration." Don't say, "Clients will learn." Say, "You will learn." The more pronouns you use, the more connected your audience will feel to your content.
RULE #4: USE SHORT WORDS. How would your users naturally converse? What is their education level and range of vocabulary? (If your users don't understand your content, it will not be effective.) Remember that web users consume content casually; so you should stick to conversational, every-day language that will not overwhelm them or bore them with formality. For example:
Procedure = Steps
Utilize = Use
Attain = Get
Have questions about writing for the web? Don't hesitate to get-in-touch. And of course, tune-in next time for Web House Rock Part Two!