Editing Tips for Web Copywriting
The world of web design and inbound marketing changes constantly. Because of this, I often feel like I spend at least 3 hours every day reading online articles about the newest trends and updates in the industry.
One of the places I find myself spending the most time is often within LinkedIn Pulse. It’s a great resource to devour industry-related news as well as advice on business and leadership from different people with very different levels of experience and backgrounds. However, because LinkedIn is a self-publishing platform, many articles tend to lack the necessary editing.
Although I understand that as a writer I am definitely more keenly aware of mistakes that most people wouldn’t even notice, I am in constant amazement of how many successful business professionals – CEOs and “LinkedIn Influencers” especially – seem to completely lack any sort of editing skills. I begin to read an intriguing article written by a thought leader, only to quickly find myself discrediting everything they are saying because they don’t know how to properly use punctuation.
Rant aside…whether you’re writing a social media or blog post, an email to a client, or copy for your website, poor writing and editing can really hurt your business. Follow these tips, establish your own process, and write!
(Bonus Tip: You’re going to need to establish consistency within your brand content, everything from the copy on your website to your blog posts and marketing materials. To help with this, news outlets follow a “styleguide” for editing guidelines. I recommend using the AP Stylebook, but you might prefer a different one.)
Obviously punctuation mistakes has me worked up, so i’ll dive into this first. Improper use of punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence, so there’s no excuse not to try your best to get it right. The following are the most common errors I see people make, and the rules to remember according to the AP Stylebook so you never make them yourself:
- Semicolon: Use a semicolon to break up independent clauses that are connected by conjunctive adverbs or transitional phrases. (Example: “I don’t like the heat; however the ocean breeze makes it bearable.”
- Quotation: Periods always go inside of quotation marks. Only on specific instances would you put a punctuation mark outside of quotations. (Example: Who wrote “Gone With the Wind”?)
- Hyphen: Hyphens are used to avoid ambiguity and/or to conjoin two words that express a single concept. Generally they are used when two descriptor words precede a noun such as “a full-time job” or “engagement-driven content.”
- Dash: Dashes should be used to convey an abrupt change of thought within a sentence or to list a series within a phrase. They are not be used in place of commas within sentences.
Making sure your content flows and has hierarchy is another very important step. If you’re writing for the web, keep your paragraphs short and add section headings whenever necessary. In addition, if you have a lot of text, break it up with images or pull-quotes.
In addition, many people will mainly just skim through your content. Adding proper headings and formatting allows them to eaily find the information they are looking for.
Your website copy should always answer the Who, What, Where, When and Why. This will help to establish you as an authority figure and build trust with your audience.
You know your customers better than anyone else. What kind of material do they read in their spare time? What is their personality like? If you know that your customers are laid back, then don’t write in a very business-oriented tone on your website.
When writing for the web, use active voice whenever possible. It conveys action to the reader, which can be a powerful tool to help with marketing.
Don’t try to stuff your content with complicated lingo. A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t use a word or a phrase in general conversation, then you shouldn’t use it in writing either. You want to connect with your audience, not leave them feeling uneducated.
The most important element of writing, especially content for your website, is to make sure that you’re providing value to the reader. You don’t need to stuff your website with content just because it feels like there isn’t enough. Say what needs to be said, and nothing extra.
Check & Repeat
Before you’re ready to make your content live, make sure to not just proof it, but to read through it out loud too. Mistakes are going to happen either way. No matter how many times you read through your work, an error is bound to show up. Just do what you can to avoid them whenever possible.