Day 19: Elementary School English > Your Copy
Richard Branson, Virgin’s founder once said:
“To me, business isn’t about wearing suits or pleasing stockholders. It’s about being true to yourself, your ideas, and focusing on the essentials.”
Let’s turn this quote into a metaphor.
If we applied Mr Branson’s words to your copy, the “wearing suits” part is the equivalent of jargon and fancy wordplay that sounds smart, but is actually dumb.
Let’s clear this up now before we go any further: flowery language kills your conversions.
A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that using big words and complex sentences makes them look good. In fact, the opposite is true; excellent copy is easy to read, appeals to the reader’s emotions, and strikes up a conversation.
Your voice as a copywriter should be something along the lines of “Be the customer’s friend, but not their best friend. Be smarter than them, but not much smarter. Encourage them to buy your stuff, but don’t force it.”
But how do you write conversational copy that customers actually like?
There’s a few simple guidelines you should keep in mind when jotting down your messages. Some of these might seem grammatically incorrect, but that’s fine.
- Address your reader with “you”. The more you do it, the better.
- You SHOULD use contractions. It’s instead of “it is”, we’ve instead of “we have”
- Active voice is more dynamic and effective in making the point (i.e. passive “Life becomes easier using our product” vs the active “Your life gets easier when you use our product”)
- Don’t use your company’s name in body copy. Just say “we”.
- Keep it simple. Use words you’d use in real life.
- Don’t say “utilize”, say “use”
- Don’t say “ensure”, say “make sure”
- Don’t say “finish”. say “finish”
- Don’t say “regarding”, say “about”
- You can start sentences with “And”, “So” and “But”. No one’s going to call the police.
- Keep sentences short. Stick to one point per sentence.
- Vary paragraph length. And yes, you can have 1-line paragraphs if you want. but alternate them with 3-4 line to keep your reader on their toes. It’s also more visually appealing.
Let’s look at some examples.
First, the bad. We’ve highlighted what’s wrong in red:
“Achieve Agility”? What the hell does that mean?
This copy stacked fancy words on top of more fancy words until the sale was lost.
Let’s try something a bit stronger:
This copy is much better, because it is conversational. The only complex words are technical terms that refer to the business and what it offers.
Using conversational copy is even more important when it comes to your value proposition, because remember, users might ditch your site after just a few seconds if they don’t understand it.
We’re sticking with the theme of simplicity today.
Look through your homepage and simplify at least 3 sentences.