This is a guest post by Oliver Dirs, editor and proofreader at EditPro.co.uk
You have a website that looks great and works well but how professional is its written content? Numerous reports have shown how potential customers are put off by poorly written copy and have highlighted the benefits of getting your material professionally edited. A survey by the Royal Mail found that 30% of consumers wouldn’t buy from businesses that used poor spelling or grammar. Here are some tips for sprucing up your site’s content, avoiding embarrassing typos and presenting your business in the best light.
You should of course begin a review of your text by running a grammar and spell check, preferably in MS Word. This is improving all the time and the latest version can sometimes identify where you’ve used the wrong word in a particular context (effect/affect, complement/compliment, etc.). But beware of following the spell check slavishly, especially on grammar and word usage, as it’s not always right.
Although writing good copy is a skill that takes time to develop there are a few key things that can instantly improve your site’s content:
- Keep readers’ interest by varying the vocabulary you use within sentences and paragraphs instead of repeating the same words. Visit www.thesaurus.com for inspiration.
- Avoid jargon. Although it’s important to use terminology that’s relevant to your clients, don’t let this prevent the man in the street from understanding what your business does.
- Keep things concise and avoid waffle. Don’t include copy just to fill space.
The best way to improve a piece of text is to take a break from writing and come back to it later as it’s easy to become blind to errors in your own work. It’s essential that you get at least one other person to review your site, both for content and final proofreading. Otherwise you may find yourself in the embarrassing position of your customers pointing out mistakes. A handy way of getting a fresh take on your writing is to change the colour of the text: try switching to white text on a blue background when proofreading.
Speak and spell
A really useful trick for proofreading and editing your site is to get your PC to read the text back. Use the “Speak selected text” function in MS Word or something like www.yakitome.com to read your site’s content aloud. Sit back and listen carefully – you’ll be amazed at how many improvements you’ll make by using your ears rather than your eyes.
While doing a detailed check of your text it can be all too easy to miss errors in titles, subheadings and opening sentences – a case of not seeing the wood for the trees. Perhaps the rest of the text has changed so that a heading no longer makes sense? Or maybe there’s a typo that will be all the more glaring in a title? Proof this type of text separately; the more prominent the text the more it will need to be reviewed.
Four people eyeballed this text in the picture, but the error still ended up on a giant billboard.