You’ve heard the phrase “it can turn on a dime.” When it comes to writing copy, “it can turn on a word.” Ergo, it makes sense to have respect for good writing. The heart of graphic design is in combining words and images in the most effective and impactful ways possible. Good writing is at least half of that equation.
Writing for print and writing for the web have special requirements and best practices. Good advice on writing for the web stresses the value of clear, well-written text that ordinary mortals can read and understand. The text content of a website is a large percentage of what the search engines scoop up and interpret (index) for all websites. Long gone is the stilted “keyword-heavy” writing of the past.
The Fate of “Deathless Prose”
When writing for print, an effective headline and a call to action can make or break a great brochure, ad, or piece of direct mail. Whether you hire a writer or DIY your copy, the more thought you put into the message, the better the impact will be on your audience. Good writing grabs and KEEPS a reader’s attention. It’s priceless. It’s an art. Find a good writer.
Talk to Mr. Data
To give one small example of the difference between writing for print and writing for the web — If you’re writing for print, a clever title, headline, or subhead is pure gold. However, on the web, a title that’s unrelated to — or that’s not a direct reflection of — the content it introduces can confuse the search engines. Stated simply, web crawlers can’t parse puns. They depend upon clearly descriptive (and properly coded) titles to figure out what the heck you’re saying on your page, so a clever (but obscure) title can be completely misleading as header content. When it comes to web page titles, imagine that your audience is Mr. Data.
The Wrong Word and Credibility
A key component of good writing is good editing. Using the wrong word or misspelling a word can be an instant turn-off to your audience, so it pays to make sure your vocabulary and grammar are as error-free as possible. All it takes is ONE mistake with a word, and your credibility drops by an order of magnitude. When it comes to using the wrong word, there are many tripwires, so it pays to be vigilant. If in doubt, hire a professional editor.
A significant element of good writing is proofreading. I tell everyone who will listen (and some who don’t) that everyone is their own worst proofreader, and I include myself in this. The more pairs of eyes that read your copy, the better off you’ll be. Human nature is such that the author will likely not see their own errors because the author’s mind is so full of what they meant to write that they will likely miss what they did write. Happens all the time.
“Trust but verify”
I tell people that — when writing good copy — you’re probably not truly finished with the work until you feel like you never want to read those sentences again. Only then will you know you’ve done your due diligence.
Writing matters — and writing well matters even more. In my work, the words can be at least as important as the images. The right combination is the stuff of legend.
Some advice from a very useful resource: the grammarly.com blog.