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The 7 commandments of writing words for your website or blog

The 7 commandments of writing words for your website or blog

Posted 05th December, 2019 by Sarah

Eight-minute read

First things first, this is not an article on SEO. It’s not about keywords, calls to action or writing for SEO optimisation. It’s about the elements you need to pay attention to once all the work on that slightly more scientific side has been done.

It’s about giving your website that extra coat of gloss.

Essentially, the seven commandments of great website writing are the same as the commandments of superior writing in general.

Ernest Hemingway once said there was nothing to writing apart from sitting down at a typewriter and bleeding, and while that may be considered a little extreme today, many of Hemingway’s other tips on penmanship are still as relevant in the twenty-twenties as they were back in the 1920s.

So with this in mind, here are the seven commandments for writing words for your website that should give you the edge against your competition.

Oh and don’t forget. If you want people to read your words once they’re written, you’re going to need a stellar web hosting package. Check out our plans, their bandwidths and their perks on the product pages.

Don’t use clichés

It was George Orwell who once said that you should never use a metaphor, simile or any other figure of speech if you were used to seeing it in print already.

Today, with 1.5 billion websites in the world, around 300 million blog posts published every day, and 500 million tweets sent out every day, it’s hard to write in original phrases.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try though.

Today, even words like beautiful have become so overused that they no longer hold the same power of meaning that they once did. Once upon a time, the word beautiful was reserved for things like Botticelli’s Birth of Venus painting. Today, the adjective can be found everywhere. Just look at the product description below, taken from the Wayfair website.

“This 30 L pedal bin is beautiful and sturdy making it ideal for your kitchen or any room you wish.”

A beautiful bin? Really?

Other words that have become cliched include stunning, best and perfect.

If you find yourself writing words like these in your website or blog copy, ask yourself how you can make those words work harder. Simple yet effective replacements for beautiful, for example, include words like eye-catching, memorable, noteworthy, remarkable, extraordinary and even prepossessing.

Don’t exaggerate

This commandment links into the above advice in the way that it encourages you to consider the real value and meaning of the words you’re using rather than writing them blindly.

Take the word ‘unique’. You’ll find it in product and service descriptions all over the internet. However, there’s not a lot in life that is truly unique. Consider using words such as uncommon and rare in the place of unique to separate your writing from that of your competitors.

Ban jargon

Unless the audience for your blog or website is super-technical, you’ll want to try and avoid using jargon in your online writing.

Take BT, as an example. One of the products they sell is 50MB fibre broadband. They don’t call it this on their website, though. Instead, they name is Superfast Broadband.

When you write a webpage or blog it’s always useful to read over it afterwards to check to see if any of the words you have used need translating into the everyday equivalent.

Channel Hemingway and Wilde

Both Ernest Hemingway and Oscar Wilde are known for having been able to say in a single sentence what other writers took paragraphs to explain.

You can channel these literary heroes by keeping your sentences succinct. If the sentence you’re writing spills out over two lines, look at ways to split it up.

One tool that can help you with this is the Hemingway App. Enter your text into this app and it will analyse it for overly complicated sentences and suggest edits.

Murder your darlings

The expression ‘Murder your darlings’ is accredited to British author Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Coach. Its sentiment was iterated by Stephen King when he said: “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler's heart, kill your darlings.”

So what does it mean exactly?

Essentially, it means you should take a strict approach to editing. Delete anything that doesn’t add real value to your writing.

Take the sentence in point one above ‘Today, with 1.5 billion websites in the world, around 300 million blog posts published every day, and 500 million tweets sent out every day, it’s hard to write in original phrases.’

It originally read ‘Today, with 1.5 billion websites in the world, around 300 million blog posts published every day, and 500 million tweets sent out into the ether every day, it’s hard to write in original phrases.’

The ‘into the ether’ part was our darling. We liked it. In our opinion, it made the sentence sound a little more literary. However, it was valueless. So, we deleted it. Darling, murdered.

Avoid repetition

One key to making your writing seem more professional is to try to avoid repeating words and phrases.

Why?

Take this sentence from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee…

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”

It’s one of the most-quoted sentences from a novel of all time. Would it have been as effective if it had read as follows?

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from that person’s point of view… Until you climb inside of the person’s skin and walk around in it.”

To pick up on repeated words or phrases, it can help to read your work out loud or have someone else glance over it to check for repetition.

Oh, and sit down at a typewriter and bleed

Okay, okay, so above we said that this advice from Hemingway on how to write ‘may be considered a little extreme today’.

But actually, it still holds true.

Writing from the heart and with a genuine passion for what you do is still one of the key things that will help distinguish your online content from your competitors.

We’ve written about using emotion and telling your stories online before. But let’s look at an example. Which of the two sentences from an About Us section of a furniture website would make you want to buy products more?

A: Welcome to Forge and Fire, an online interiors store. We’re a company based in Berkshire.

B: Welcome to Forge and Fire, an online interiors store. We’re a husband and wife team based in a little village in Berkshire.

We’d buy from the more personal one. Wouldn’t you?

Categories: WordPress, Tips, Blogging, Marketing, Small Businesses

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