I really can’t judge people who spend about 15 seconds scanning an article before deciding to move on to something else. After all, I do the same thing myself. If I click a link to something I’m interested in reading and can’t get past the layout, I click away from the site and look for something else. It could very well have been an informative article, but the company is unlikely to get another chance to earn my business. That’s life in the digital information age for you.
Never Turn in an Article Containing a Giant Wall of Text
The human eye naturally looks for breaks in written text because the information is too overwhelming for the brain to process otherwise. This is important to keep in mind when you’re writing for a client, whether it’s an article, blog post, list of frequently asked questions, or something else. Be sure to incorporate plenty of white space by keeping paragraphs short, including section headers, and making liberal use of formatting tools such as bolding, bullet points, and underlining.
Personally, I strive to keep paragraphs at around 100 words. Anything more than that puts me in danger of the dreaded wall of text category. If you’re not familiar with that term, here’s how the Urban Dictionary defines it:
“A piece of writing that does not use proper grammar or punctuation. It generally looks like a giant essay that doesn’t use paragraphs or any bit of spacing at all.”
I wouldn’t want to read something that disorganized so I would never expect clients to pay me to write it.
Introduce New Topics with a Bold Subheading
When you have finished discussing one subject area, I recommend using a bold headline to transition to another topic. The white space gives your readers a clue that you’re about to switch gears. When selecting the words for the subheading, make it informative without giving too many clues as to what the content below it will cover. This keeps people who visit your client’s website interested enough to continue reading. You should avoid sounding overly promotional when you write for clients as this could alienate people and cause them not to return. Instead, provide genuinely valuable information.
Include Bulleted Lists Where Appropriate
The key to getting your article read isn’t necessarily choosing the perfect words and investing more time in research. While word choice and verifiable facts are important, they don’t matter if you can’t get anyone to read your article in the first place. In today’s time-crunched society, the best way to get your client’s message across is to make the information in your articles scannable. Let me give you an example from my own work with a Content Runner client.
I regularly work with a company that creates online medical directories. When people arrive at one of these directories, the first thing they want to know is if the doctors listed can actually help them. They read about the types of conditions the doctor treats and then compare the specific symptoms to their own. The thing that is the most important to them should stand out from all other information presented. In this case, it might appear like this:
You may be suffering from (the condition we treat) if you regularly experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Upset stomach
- Blurry vision
- Sore muscles
- Tightness in the chest area
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather glance down a list of 10 bulleted symptoms and make a mental note if I have any of them than to read it this way:
You may be suffering from (the condition we treat) if you regularly experience fever, rash, fatigue, upset stomach, blurry vision, hoarseness, nausea, vomiting, sore muscles, or tightness in the chest area. Not only does this make for a very long sentence, the website visitor may not see it at all if it blends right in with all of the other information on the doctor’s page.
Keep Your Writing Varied
You’ve worked hard to create an article that is informative, visually appealing, and scannable. After all that, it would be a shame to have the reader click away due to dull writing. One thing I do to try to make it lively is include a strong opening sentence to hook the reader and entice him or her to keep going. I also avoid repeating the same descriptive word in a single sentence or even the same paragraph if possible. Lastly, I try to avoid starting two sentences in a row with the same word.
Judging by the feedback I receive from clients, I believe they appreciate my unique style. Naturally, all online copywriters have a style of their own. It’s just a matter of nurturing it and evaluating what works and what doesn’t. While you don’t have to take every client comment to heart, pay attention when you receive the same type of feedback several times. This helps you deliver a product that online marketers consistently want to buy.