How to Edit Your Web Copy to Sound Like You Hired a Copywriter
Putting words on the page can be an easy process, depending on who you talk to.
Editing your web copy, on the other hand, can be very painful for anyone! There is an art to articulating your thoughts, so it not only expresses your ideas but people get it too.
Why am I sharing this intel??...because sometimes our passion gets lost in translation and some of your copy -- YOU can fix. And in those awkward moments, your genius will reveal itself.
Below are 7 editor's intel to writing web copy, you can follow (and I use), Pitch Perfect edition.
1. Read it Out Loud
The first step to checking & catching awkward writing is to read it out loud.
Your ear can pick it up better than your eye. Here's a free tool that will read it for you. You're 3x more likely to catch what you previously overlooked. It will expose messy word order, which could potentially confuse the hell out of your readers.
If you had to re-read it a few times yourself, chances are --your reader will too. This interrupts the flow and distracts from the point you're trying to make.
You want them to get it, not get lost.
2. Record Yourself
One of the best ways to capture your natural voice and insert only high impact words into your copy.
Whip out your cell phone's video or audio recorder and say what you want to say but address it to a friend. You're less likely to sound "salesy", preachy or pretentious. (Unless your relationship is set-up that way...)
Aim for a regular conversation between humans.
3. Axe The Wordy Words
The vagueness of your last sentence left me at the corner of "What!?" and "Huh??".
Here are some awkward examples (taken from the web):
Awkward: Taking life a day at a time is how I think it should be done to be happy.
Fixed it: Take life one day at a time, you may be better off!
Awkward: Each and every one of the readers of Business Insider wrote a comment on the last blog post.
Fixed it: All of Business Insider readers commented on the last post
Awkward: It is important to effect the verbalization of concepts through the utilization of unsophisticated terminology.
Fixed it: No need to use fancy words, say what you mean.
Effective writing avoids inflated language. Inflated language is puffed-up and overcomplicated. Speak naturally.
4. Make it Snappy
Remove every unnecessary word, phrase, and/or sentence.
When you're trying to explain something, less is more. Use contractions (ex. You're vs. You are, Don't vs. Do not) and shorten sentences wherever you can.
What's the point of your content? To entertain, excite or educate? Keep the main point in the back of your mind and get to it.
The first round could be awkward and confusing, while the second re-write may be clearer, straight to the point, and sliced in half.
Yes, you can do it!
5. Re-Word it
Almost every sentence can be worded a hundred different ways, but as the author, your job is to find the best, yet clearest, wording.
Avoid using a flat voice (void of personality), randomness and any repetitive themes.
"Some of the best times I've had were in my home with my family and friends. I carry those memories in my heart. I invite you to explore this site, which is a reflection of my heart. I invite you to make this your home.
Start your day here with prayers and affirmations. Replenish your spirit with music and meditations. Meet the people and participate in the processes that I hold dear to my heart. Let's do the work together to support our individual growth and the evolution of human consciousness.
Your presence here is essential. Visit me here often and tweet me about your experience. If there is anything else I can do to make our home a better place, please let me know."
Let’s re-word it:
"Some of the best times in my home were with family and friends. I carry those memories in my heart. I invite you to explore this site, as a reflection of those warm experiences. I also invite you to make this your home.
Start your day here with prayers and affirmations. Replenish your spirit with music and meditations. Meet the people and participate in these processes, I hold dear. Let's do the work together to support our individual growth and the evolution of human consciousness.
Your presence here is essential. Visit often and tweet me your experiences. If there is anything I can do to make our home a better space, please let me know."
Taken from Iyanla Vanzant's Website.
Removing a few words and re-working the repetitiveness of "heart" in the different sentences, allowed for greater reader penetration (flow).
6. Tighten it Up
It’s meant to fix any leftover awkwardness in the second or third draft.
It's the difference between having a bunch of mediocre sentences OR sentences that build upon each other to illustrate exactly what you intend.
The best writing creates a build-up and flows --in each sentence written.
Here are 11 raw & honest quotes from the most legendary writers on inspirational writing (class is in session).
“The idea is to write it so that people hear it and it slides through the brain and goes straight to the heart.” - Maya Angelou
"It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly." – C. J. Cherryh
"Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short." – Henry David Thoreau
"A blank piece of paper is God’s way of telling us how hard it to be God." – Sidney Sheldon
"I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly." – Edgar Rice Burroughs
"Words are a lens to focus one’s mind." - Ayn Rand
"Half my life is an act of revision." – John Irving
"Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer." – Barbara Kingsolver
"All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary—it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences." – Somerset Maugham
"If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor." – Edgar Rice Burroughs
"My own experience is that once a story has been written, one has to cross out the beginning and the end. It is there that we authors do most of our lying." – Anton Chekhov
7. Delete it
Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do with an awkward sentence.
Staring at it for hours, re-writing it 242 times, and asking your partner after each revision, "Does this make sense?". It’s time to ask yourself: "Does this make sense?!" It might just need to be deleted.
If it’s not necessary and plain ol' confusing, it’s okay to let it go.
There is a sense of freedom that comes from just scrapping it all together and starting from the top...or hire an editor.
* I’ve put together the exact words you should say when a client’s invoice has gone beyond your mortgage due date, the words that get trapped when you’re at the follow-up pitch stage and how to respond when someone questions your expertise or why you’re better than *insert so-and-so name*.