Whether you graduated with an English degree or if you are a seasoned marketing professional who hasn’t written for a long time, there might come a time in your career where you’ll have to write something for the web. It could be website copy, a blog post or a news article.
Writing for the web isn’t like writing for other mediums. There are a whole set different factors you have to consider when writing copy for the Internet. So what writing tips and tricks can you use to make sure that more people see your content as opposed to your competitors?
Ironically, one unavoidable fact of the digital age is writing. Many people whose job descriptions don’t mention anything about writing spend a significant part of the day typing.
If most of your contact with someone, whose opinion you value, is through texts and email, then it’s important to present yourself clearly and intelligently to them. No one is going to hold it against you if you misspell a word or misplace a comma. But that doesn’t mean they don’t notice!
Here are a some writing tips to help the most casual writers look professional.
This probably goes without saying, but where possible use a grammar extension. They aren’t perfect, but they do point out the most obvious mistakes. They also help you learn where you tend to make those mistakes, which is useful when you don’t have access to one. You can find one for almost every format, including texts and tweets.
On that note, know your weaknesses. Most of us have some common mistake we frequently make. Maybe you confuse lose and loose or struggle with commas. You probably know what yours are. You may check for it when it matters, but it can be easy to let it slip in quick messages like texts.
That little mistake is probably someone else’s pet peeve, though. Those sorts of mistakes aren’t a big deal, but if you’re constantly making an error that makes someone else grind their teeth, they will notice. Yes, your grammar extension probably catches this most of the time, but you should use that to help you fix that weakness rather than as a crutch. In the long run, this will pay off.
My favourite grammar extension is Grammarly.
Ask for feedback.
No one is going to offer you unsolicited advice on the quality of your emails. Asking friends and family what they think of the messages you send may give you insight into habits you have that you aren’t aware of. They can also help you improve your style and clarity, which grammar extensions can’t do.
Similarly, if you have someone who can give your important content a quick once over before you send, take advantage of it. The hardest mistakes to see are the ones you’ve just made, so someone else may see in thirty seconds what you wouldn’t find in ten minutes of review.
It seems ridiculous to mention this when talking about chat and text, but even in short messages, many of us add unnecessary frills, especially when looking to impress. This usually backfires. Using shorter sentences and smaller words makes for clearer communication and fewer errors.
Know your audience.
If someone sends you texts filled with acronyms and abbreviations, you can safely reply in kind. They may even prefer it. If they text in full sentences with capitalisation and punctuation, you need to do so as well. This reciprocal rule of formality works well in general, but be wary of being too casual in messages that might be shared or forwarded.
Finally, be personal.
In many cases, a bland email is barely better than spam to someone who goes through dozens of them in a morning. Leverage what you know about the person you’re communicating with to make your message more personal. If saying thank you, be specific about what you’re thankful for. If you’re acknowledging receipt of a file or package, be complimentary about what you’ve received.
Many people who are good at this in person struggle to translate it to writing. It’s easy to default to an unnecessarily impersonal and formal style just to get the job done. Instead, imagine what you would say if you were there in person and write that. If your main point of contact with a person is through text, then building relationships requires you to translate those personal skills into an impersonal format.
Cultivating stronger writing skills in even the most casual settings is something very few people bother with, but it can be invaluable. It allows you to appear more professional and more personable in what may be a key connection to many of your most valuable contacts. By being conscious of the potential impact of these messages, you can create a strong and lasting impression even with people you’ve never met, which is a crucial ability in the modern world.