Want to write better Web copy? You’ll be off to a good start if your follow Gerry McGovern‘s advice.
Linking is the foundation of every quality website. Everything starts with the link. You build from the link, not from the sentence.
Read the following paragraph and try to identify how it should be dealt with in terms of links:
“In the following section you will be provided with a range of information that should help you decide which is the right mortgage for you. It also provides you information about the other costs associated with a mortgage. There are specific sub-sections for first-time buyers and for those seeking to re-mortgage.”
Let’s get rid of the above paragraph entirely and replace it with the following four links:
- Decide which is the right mortgage for you
- Other costs associated with your mortgage
- First-time buyers’ mortgage guide
- Re-mortgaging: here’s what you need to know
We have been trained to write full sentences and full paragraphs, but on the Web these full sentences and paragraphs can often get in the way. We have been trained to create context and formal, neat content, but on the Web context and neatness can often slow things down.
On the Web, customers want to skip the details and get straight to the point. Long-winded sentences that bend on and on like country roads are definitely not what they want.
Most people don’t even read full sentences on the Web anymore. What they much prefer is a lean link that is chock-full of information. A typical sentence is like an orange; a web link is like freshly squeezed orange juice. Sure, there’s good stuff in the sentence but it needs peeling.
The following types of sentence are absolutely wrong for the Web:
In the following section you will be provided with a range of information that should help you decide which is the right mortgage for you.
We are delighted to announce the launch of our new version 6.1 of Fangater.
XYZ Limited strives to develop and supply the most robust and cutting-edge financial services for the aviation industry.
Linking is the grammar of the Web. Never say “in the following section” when you can link directly to the exact place people need to get to. Why talk about the launch of your new product, when you can invite customers to see a demo or download a trial version?
Why on earth start a sentence on your website with your organization’s name? Unless your website is for slow learners, then don’t waste precious time telling people something they already know.
Read this sentence again:
“In the following section you will be provided with a range of information that should help you decide which is the right mortgage for you.”
The reader is 22 words in before they discover what exactly it is that the sentence is about. The sentence might be good English but it is bad web grammar. The impatient scan reader has moved on.
Look at your web sentences again. Delete the first half and then turn the second half into a link. Focus on what your customers need to do, not on what you need to tell them. Web content is not composed of sentences into which links are embedded. It is composed of links alone or links that are supported by the toughest, leanest sentences possible. Build from the link, not from the sentence.