People are not always so self-aware. But they are brand aware.
According to this study involving 1,700 participants, while 43% of people say bad grammar is a turn-off on a dating site, and 35% say good grammar is sexy, a whopping 86% of them ironically publish their profiles without having someone check them for mistakes.
What does this mean? Most people believe they’re doing a good enough job. And yet, few are. Comma splices (two complete sentences separated by a comma), randomly capitalized words, quote marks around words and phrases that didn’t come from a quote, words underlined for no apparent reason, misspelled words — these things riddle the Internet. It seems people aren’t so good at knowing when they have mastered the English language.
But they do notice when you haven’t. And what’s worse is that people only tend to read an average of 28% of the words you write anyway, so you have even less chance than you think of making a great impression.
Before you let a bunch of your users decide you look unprofessional or lazy due to poor, easily-correctable copywriting mistakes, here are a few tips for cleaning up and maximizing your chances for success. It’s vital that every word count.
First, remember that every sentence has a purpose. No one’s on your site to read. They’re on your site to get something done. Make sure every sentence does the work of communicating value, benefits, and brand reliability. In particular, keep your headings focused on ideas that help your users. And your value proposition statement? Make sure it, um, proposes your value.
Get to the point
People who’ve gone to college tend to come out of it with an affinity for lengthy sentences written in passive voice (like this one). This doesn’t make for good web writing. It’s confusing, grandiose, vague, and it requires thought and attention.
To get users reading, write for brevity and action. Make sure each sentence has a subject, and that the subject does something. Communicate as much as possible with as few words as possible. Then, instead of jamming four more facts into a single line, stop. Compare these two:
Passive and long: “It’s been said by Time Magazine of our software that it ‘works well and does things’.”
Short and active: “Time Magazine says: ‘it works well and does things.'”
This is also just a good way to write in general. Short sentences build and keep momentum.
Show ’em what they get
On task-centric sites (like a scheduling app, for example), be sure to communicate the benefits of each task. Sure, you can simply tell the user to add notes to a meeting invite, but showing the user how a note can help the recipient is much more powerful. Showing an example note, like “The conference room is on the third floor at the end of the hall,” for example, can help eliminate the possibility of people showing up late after getting lost.
Communicating the benefit of completing the task, in other words, gives the user a reason to do it, which is good for the user and your business.
Have some personality
Do you like dry, academic writing? Yeah, no one else does, either. Put some personality into your copy by writing with a human tone. Write the way your users speak. The way you speak. This livens up your copy and lets users feel like they’re in the company of people they can relate to.
Despite that people don’t always apply good form in their own online writing, a lax attitude in yours can drive them away. But it doesn’t take much to give yourself better odds. Just focus on benefits and personality, and keep it brief, and you’ll be in solid shape.