Whether you’re writing a marketing email, the introductory text of your home page, or an event description, you need a clear, effective message. Here are some questions to ask yourself whenever you reach out to the world.
1. Can you summarize what you want to tell people in a single sentence?
A reader should be able to turn to the person next to them and summarize what you want to convey with a single sentence: "This company makes metal furniture," or "They're having a party to celebrate the beginning of spring."
2. Are you giving people the important information right away?
Tell before you sell: not everyone will continue to that second or third paragraph where you finally explain what you're offering. Don't be tempted to spend a lot of time selling people on something before saying what it is.
3. Is the message clear and simple?
It can be tempting to try and impress readers with fancy language that makes you sound original or smart or hip. Don't do it. Avoid jargon, buzzwords, and slang. "Innovative software to keep you focused" is a clearer message than "a paradigm shift in out-of-the-box mindfulness app."
Try running your text through HemingwayApp, which offers a readability score. Mensa, an organization for the smartest 2% of the world's population, welcomes visitors with text suitable for an average college freshman.
4. Would your message appeal to someone who is not like you?
If I were writing this this article for people exactly like me, I could use examples centered on video games, swing dancing, and 1960s music. However, people without my frame of reference would probably stop reading.
Always ask yourself; will my intended audience know what this means? Will they care?
5. Are you being lazy?
There are professionals – professionals! – who send out emails with subject lines like, "you might be interested in this" or just, "press release." There are websites that have no text on the home page explaining what the website is about. Not a single line.
Don't ask your audience to put in extra effort to find out what you want from them. All the work should be on your end. If the easiest thing to do is to ignore your message, people will.
6. Did you cover all the details?
We have all seen the event page that doesn't quite explain what the event is, or the product page that leaves out important details. What obvious question would someone have after reading your text? Answer that question.
7. How's the grammar and spelling?
Once you've got the perfect message, run it through a spell checker, and have someone else look through it for mistakes. It can also be helpful to read the text aloud, which can bring out easily-overlooked errors.
No matter how great your message is, if it contains obvious errors, you’ll lose their attention immediately.
8. Do you make a good case?
Once you've got a clear, well-written message that conveys the information quickly, read it and ask whether or not you have given the reader a good reason to take action. Some events need nothing more than an announcement that they exist; if you were giving away a million dollars to the first 10 people to arrive, you wouldn't need to add anything further. But most of the time you need to convince.
Convincing people isn’t always easy; the need for persuasive copy has kept marketers in business for centuries. Persuasive copy is a big subject that will require its own post. Stay tuned.