8 Tips for Writing Engaging Copy

July 31, 2015 by Felipa Villegas

How can you keep a reader on your website, reading the brilliant copy that you have written?  If your objective is to influence a reader to take some action, to convert them from a reader to a customer or participant, then you must engage your readers enough that they will want to learn more about your purpose.  Try some of these valuable copywriting strategies that will retain your readers:

1. Cover the basics.

Remember when your second grade Language Arts teacher taught you to answer the five W’s?  Web copy should also cover who, what, when, where, and why.  Also, your copy should clearly define costs.  Concisely providing these facts creates trustworthiness, and prevents readers from leaving your page to look elsewhere for the necessary information.

2. Talk to your readers.

Use a conversational tone in your copywriting.  By talking with (instead of talking at) your reader, you can better reflect that you respect the values and priorities of your potential customer.  Avoid industry jargon and corporate lingo.  If you would not say a phrase in face-to-face conversation, then don’t use it in your writing either.  Take a peek at the 100 most overused buzzwords in press releases and try to use them less!

3. Embrace the period.

Even if you have an expansive vocabulary, using flowery language, and overly complex sentences can muddy your message.  Overuse of fancy descriptive words can drown the real the information.  And long, multi-part sentences are difficult to scan while still grasping some understanding.  Break long sentences into two or three shorter sentences, and remove words that are not necessary.

Not like this:  “While some of you eager-to-learn people may be wondering just how long is too long when it comes to a complex sentence in your own copywriting, others of you seasoned writers already have great clarity about the issue of overly lengthy sentences and how to identify them—you know that when you read it back out loud, and there are a ten zillion commas, a semi-colon, and an em dash, and you completely run out of breath before the sentence is even complete, that it has definitely lingered on for way too long and needs to be broken up and simplified.”

More like this: “If you wonder if a sentence is too long, read it aloud.  You should be able to speak the sentence without taking another breath.  Also, watch for frequent commas, semi-colons, or em dashes within the sentence.  It may read clearer if you divide the long sentence into a few shorter sentences.”

4. Here’s the skimmy of it.

Most readers do not invest the time to read every sentence of a long article.  You can make it easier for them to find the information they are interested in reading, and help them to receive more of your message by making the copy “skimmable.”  Use formatting techniques that break the visual monotony and will help move the reader’s eyes through the copy.  For example, the points below are easier to scan than if they were listed within a sentence in the body text. 

Here are a few techniques for making your copy more skimmable:

Paragraph Formatting

  • Sub-headings
  • Bullet points
  • Lists
  • Varied paragraph length
  • Graphics


Text Formatting

  • Fonts
  • Text size
  • Bold
  • Italic
  • Colored text


5. Exploit headlines and captions.

Titles, headlines, sub-headings, and photo captions get read, so use them to draw your readers in and keep them reading.  A headline that offers readers a valuable secret is one way to grab readers’ attention, such as:

                  What Everyone Needs to Know About Making Rounder Meatballs

Or, pique your readers’ curiosity by framing the headline as a question to which they need to know the answer, like:

                  Have You Been Making Your Meatballs All Wrong?

When someone happens upon your website, the non-body copy could very well be the only text that they read.  As readers’ eyes are naturally drawn to photos and other graphics, captions present a powerful opportunity to convey the most relevant information.  Use your caption space for more than describing the graphic.  Tie in the information that you most want your reader to learn.

6. Be a storyteller.

Readers can easily tune-out a sales pitch or the announcement of a company’s newly released product.  Instead, engage your readers with vivid descriptions about how someone uses your product/service or how it came to exist.  Storytelling appeals to people’s emotions and emotions are the core of people’s decision-making.  By telling a story about your purpose, you can model the action that you would like your potential customer to take.   For impressive examples of website storytelling that will make you want to learn more, check out Sugru or Kiva.  Note that they not only offer a captivating story but also relay key information about themselves.

7. Verbs triumph over adjectives.

Adjectives are important when used to concisely describe an important quality.  But too many adjectives make writing feel propped-up and fluffy.  Verbs convey action, and actions are proof of product.  Which of these do you find more effective?

Adjectives:  “The new and improved Suckmaster is powerful, efficient, and dependable.”

Actions: “The Suckmaster 2.0 cleans with 480 AW of suction power.  It picks-up anything in a 2-foot radius that isn’t fastened down and traps the tiniest of particles.”

8. Be bold!

When you don’t take risks with your writing, you risk becoming boring and monotonous.  You can write dynamic, compelling copy without stirring controversy or getting fired.  In your first draft, write freely whatever comes to your creative mind, without worrying about what your boss or readers will think of it.  You can edit and revise, and get second and third opinions before posting the copy.  Again, being passionate, surprising, or funny will appeal to your readers’ emotions, and keep them engaged.

Please share your comments.  When you wander onto a website, what keeps you reading?  What turns you off?  What strategies do you employ in your copywriting to keep your potential customers engaged?

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