Short and sweet – writing concise copy

I was speaking to a former colleague recently and we were discussing the difficulty of estimating how long a copywriting job can take. Interestingly, we both agreed that writing shorter copy can be harder than a longer descriptive or discursive piece.
When I had to tweet for my job in publishing, I have to admit I got frustrated with Twitter so quickly! Those 400 characters seem to get eaten up far too easily and I spent so much time rewording a couple of simple sentences just to make them fit! I would end up changing adjectives, i.e. ‘fabulous’ to ‘great’…that saves 3 characters! Full sentences to shorter snappier ones, i.e. ‘We invite you to look at this new book’ to ‘Look at this new book’ – that’s 9 characters saved!? *Groan* I found it so frustratingly time consuming and my style and the heart of what I was trying to say often got lost.
I know a lot of people feel the same about writing descriptions and profiles for social media sites, like the ‘About’ and ‘Services’ sections on your Facebook business page and Linkedin summaries. You have to try to be original and descriptive, but without waffling on. You have to include all of the important information, without it turning into an essay. The same can be said for copy on leaflets and newsletters too!
So how do you make ‘short and sweet’ copy the best it can be?
Be original! If you don’t have a lot of characters/space or the copy should be short in length (i.e. on your website homepage), then every word counts. Make them the best they can be.
(This is a great article on the words ‘overused’ in Linkedin profiles – – and highlights how meaningless words can become if you read them over and over again. Use a thesaurus if necessary!)
Be direct – get to the point! There is no space for waffle or wordy introductions. Homepage copy is a great example where you have to be direct for so many business reasons. Firstly, any website visitor will give you barely 5 seconds to find out if you are who they are looking for. Therefore, starting with ‘Thank you for visiting my webpage…’ or something trivial like that is not going to help them in their quest for the information they need. Tell them straight away what they want to know, e.g. ‘We supply napkins, tablecloths and banners for children’s parties’. This sort of direct, straight-to-the-point information also works wonders for search engine optimisation (SEO), because that’s all of your keywords and search terms right there.
Be clever! If space is tight, how can you still get lots of information across? Don’t forget links! If you feel you want to introduce yourself then link on your homepage to your ‘about’ page. Use signposting – this means tell the reader where to go for more information. For example, in your Linkedin profile, if you have lots of information in the ‘updates’ section on your company page, or in ‘your experience’ section on a personal page, then tell people that in summary. Simply state: “see TITLE in Recent Updates section” and add a hyperlink, if feasible. Similarly, on a homepage, have headings and short introductions, then hyperlink the headings and keywords to relevant pages. It’s about navigating people to keep hold of their attention.
Be strict! Have you said what you wanted to say? Is the text included all essential? Yes? Then great! No? Then, cut it…or move it elsewhere! Always remember that in most cases where short and sweet is necessary then you are trying to grab people’s attention, so stay on message; stay relevant and stay catchy.
…and, typically, this is one of my longest blog posts…oh the irony!

No Comments

  1. sherilossing on April 19, 2017 at 7:51 pm

    Excellent advice on copywriting for the web! I have written in many contexts, but having to write as concisely and carefully as I have for my website content or blog posts has been a lesson in discipline. ‘Kill your babies’ and all. Longform content has its place as well, so being aware of the right place and way to use either is an excellent lesson for all who post on the web. You always need to remember your audience, their scanning and fickle tendencies at times, and Google — the 800-pound Gorilla!

  2. editorialservicesconsultant on May 27, 2017 at 12:46 pm

    Thank you! Yes it can be the most frustrating writing short copy! Grrr!

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