“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”- Robin Williams, Dead Poet’s Society.
Writing has always played an important factor in our communication as people. In the earlier days, writing came on cave walls and tattered scrolls. We use writing to pass along stories, ideas and perhaps most importantly; writing passes along expression. Without our writing, we’d be left to waving our hands around as a way of communicating to each other and perhaps some very refined interpretive dance. Needless to say, underestimating the importance in high quality written work will only result in being glanced over. Too often, websites are reported unreadable and by extension, worthless, because the author of the site hired a non-native speaker or an underdeveloped copywriter to helm his website. I must stress, it’s perfectly fine to hire copywriters for your website, but consider the written copy to be just as important, if not more so, as the rest of your website. The overall design, the colors, the font, the pictures, and whatever else have you, will all play a major role in the reception your website receives.
So what does to mean to you? I suppose one question you may be asking is, “Well, if I’m choosing to outsource my copy, then why do you assume I could spot the difference between good writing and the subpar?” That’s what makes what I’m saying to you right now so important: You need to have some idea of what your audience looks for in websites. You should, of course, know and understand the basic rules of grammar, punctuation, and word usage. That’s not to say those are the only tools you need in order to write good copy. A well-trained copywriter has been serving business leaders like you for years and ideally keep up with all of the tricks and techniques in providing reliable and effective content. However, when your work is returned to you, you need to be able to read over it immediately and check for any glaring errors before publishing it yourself.
What am I talking about exactly? Easy errors, such as the difference between your and you’re or the subtle difference between it’s and its. The reason I like to stress these little errors over bigger mistakes (more on that in a moment) is because most everyone can spot them while perusing through the content before them. If you were reading a statement from the president of your company and it featured a sentence that ended with a preposition, would you be nearly as alarmed as if you saw him use you’re as a possessive?
The reason these “little errors” are so obvious is because they’re not so little at all. We’ve been learning the rules since our earliest years in grade school. Those “big mistakes,” such as prepositions, colons, and oxford commas come later. On average, I don’t stress them because they’re often stylistic choices. If you understand the rules, you’re allowed to break them. Just ask James Joyce and Faulkner. But no one, and I mean no one, intentionally ruins a sentence by making it look like a third grader got ahold of your keyboard.
Next time: Why effective writing is more like music.
written by Darby Nickless