“One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.”- Jack Kerouac
Early in my copywriting and editing career, an online-based businessman approached me through a third-party freelancing service requesting I tighten the original author’s content and get it ready for publication. The guy spent hundreds of dollars for “original” and “unique” content for his business site and what he got back looked as if it were translated from a foreign language without any regard for the second language’s rules of grammar and basic punctuation. The site owner had no idea he was going to get back such miserable copy, and I’ll touch more on how to choose the right copywriter in future posts, but he knew right away that it wasn’t any good. That’s not to imply he could pick up the keyboard and do it himself. It just means that bad copy stands out. I might even venture a guess that bad copy sticks out more than good copy.
Re-read everything you get back from your authors. Don’t ever just copy and paste into your website whatever it is they send you. Read over it. If it doesn’t sound professional, chances are, it’s not.
What is professional? Some believe complicated, SAT words are the key to automatically good writing. This is a simple and yet common misconception. Your business copy should always be at the level of every possible audience imaginable. Even if you’re selling the last of your bone marrow scanners, your site shouldn’t be exclusively written in a language only doctors can understand. Because doctors often have their assistants or nurse practitioners search for new equipment through websites like yours. Granted, you might not be selling medical equipment but insert absolutely anything you’re selling into the example and the point stands tall. You must speak to a broad audience, and therefore the language must be simple enough for everyone.
You might be saying to yourself, “But isn’t simple too easy? I can write simple!” Well, yes and no. Simple is easy but it takes years of professional experience and accountability to develop a sense of just how to make that simplicity work for your readers. In the same way, some symphonies shine in their simplicity over the more complex arrangements, your writing will shine by not being too pretentious and difficult to read in one sitting.
Good writing is important because it flows like a great song. If you were at the orchestra and all of a sudden the cello hit the wrong key, you would notice. However, if you’re not a talented musician or well-versed in reading music, it’s not as if you know which note the cellist is supposed to play. But you know when he or she doesn’t play it. The same goes for writing. Be sure to hit the right notes. Write notes, if you will.