Is Bad Writing Killing Your Business?

I bet you’ve seen a lot of bad writing on the web. I know I have. When I come across a website with low quality writing, I automatically form a negative opinion of the company. Even when the website is otherwise well-designed and the leader has decades of experience, if the copy is hackwork, I look elsewhere.

That may seem a bit unfair, but I’m not alone.

  • 74% of web users notice the quality of spelling and grammar on company websites.
  • 59% of that same group would actively avoid doing business with a company based on web copy errors.

Bad writing doesn’t only mean poor grammar and spelling errors, and it’s not just losing you customers. If your written materials are long, unclear, or otherwise difficult to read, it’s costing you money on the operations side of your business too.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at these examples from a 2012 meta-analysis of over 50 business case studies:

  • General Electric revised a poorly-written software manual and reduced calls to their customer support center by 125 calls per month. The company estimated that they saved $375,000 per year for each customer with the revised manual.
  • The US Navy rewrote some of their memos to officers that had been received as unclear and wordy. As a result, officers took 17-23% less time reading, and the Navy estimated they would save $23-$37 million per year.

So what does this mean for your business?

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Take a look at your website. Do you see spelling or grammar mistakes? Could a person outside of your company easily understand your copy? Does it get to the point quickly enough for impatient readers?

If it looks like it needs some work, never fear. Here are my 7 best tips for writing great web copy:

  1. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Learn the basic rules of English grammar, spelling, and how to differentiate homophones and other similar words. If you don’t know the difference between lose and loose, Google it.
  2. Keep sentences, articles, and paragraphs short. Get to the point as quickly as possible. Include all of the details necessary to understand your point, and not one word more.
  3. Use the simplest words available. Some people think that big words make them sound smart and impressive. They don’t. Just keep it simple.
  4. Avoid echoes. An echo is when you use the same word (or very similar words) more than once in close proximity. The brain can’t help but notice them, so they pull the reader’s attention away from your story to focus on that one word.
  5. No non-sequiturs or lofty, absolutist claims. If you’ve used a non-sequitur, it means you’ve drawn a conclusion that doesn’t logically follow the explanation. An absolutist claim usually includes words such as “only,” “always,” or “never.” They assume that a statement is completely true or completely false, when that is often not the case. Both non-sequiturs and absolutist claims make your writing unclear and nonsensical. For example: These writing tips are the only help you’ll need to have a successful career. These writing tips are meant to help you improve your web content, which might be a step toward a successful career, but it’s certainly not the only step. A much better (and truer!) sentence would be: These writing tips can help you create great content marketing materials.
  6. Read it out loud. It’s easier to hear you’re own clunky, unclear writing if you read it out loud. It’s easier to fix it that way too.
  7. Get someone else to read it. The copy you’ve written might sound clear to you, but will someone else understand it? The only way to know is to have another person read it.

And hey, if you try all of this and your web copy still doesn’t meet your high standards, it might be time to hire a freelance writer. Shoot me an email so we can discuss what I can do for your business.

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