Is Your Website Friendly?

By Marie Allen

The style and tone of your web copy is so important in getting across your business brand and values. For most small business websites that means writing in a professional way, but in a friendly, conversational tone, avoiding “corporate-speak.”

Writing in a conversational way means writing as if you were talking to a friend. When this is done correctly it is much more effective than formal writing, because it is more accessible and easy to follow.

And it puts across an impression of YOU, the real-life business person, not some faceless corporation. If you are running a small business this is crucial – people buy people.

So how does writing conversationally work? Well the good news is it means that you can break some rules! But it is important to know which ones. Otherwise your writing ends up as sloppy and off-putting to potential clients.

It’s your writing style that you are relaxing, NOT your thinking. Your writing still needs a sound structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. And you still need to think deeply and clearly about your message in order to make a good connection with your audience.

So let’s have some fun! Here are the writing rules you can break:

  • Never start a sentence with “And” or “But.”

Starting a sentence with “And” or “But” was a complete “no-no” at school, but this actually reflects the way we speak and it is often the best way to transition from one topic to another.

  • Write complete sentences

We don’t speak in complete sentences and a sentence without a subject or without a verb can work really well and help to emphasise a key point

  • Don’t contract words

Using contractions for commonly used words like “don’t” and “aren’t” is much more natural and will help your audience to connect with your writing

And here’s the rule you must not break:

  • Use the standard rules for punctuation

Punctuation exists to help readers make sense of words and so understand their meaning.  Poor punctuation will leave your readers lost and confused.

Keep a consistent writing style across your website. Don’t have a home page that’s written in a friendly and relaxed style, but a Services page that is aggressive and salesy.

Research shows that website visitors are more likely to buy from websites that are objective and informative. Anything that smacks of sales-talk will put more people off than it attracts. Keep it chatty and friendly. Write as if you are helping your website visitors to make a purchase decision, not forcing them down a particular path.

Br careful also about using industry-specific terms, and the dreaded acronyms – a name made up of the initial letters of a word e.g. INSET (In-Service Training).  If you must include an acronym in your writing make sure you explain it fully when you first use it, and minimise the number of times it appears.

Similarly with industry-specific terms, such as “search engine optimisation.”  You may think that using these terms makes you seem clever and expert but they really don’t. Such terms make you seem remote from your clients and unable to talk to them in their language. Keep your language simple. Look at everything you write from your clients’ perspective.

Make your website a place where your clients and potential customers feel at home. Write in a professional way in a conversational style so they feel welcome. Give them the information they need about your services in an objective and easy-to-understand way, without sounding pushy.

And then, when they are ready to buy, your easy-to-understand and friendly website will be their first port of call.

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