“See, the best interpreters are part linguists, part diplomats. They have to know the politics behind each word,” Danny Hajek, National Public Radio reporter.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer.
How do you want him to feel when he visits and reads the copy on your website? Like you’re speaking directly to him? So he feels like you understand him, can relate to his concerns and have the knowledge to solve his problems?
Have you been the new kid on the block, so to speak?
If so, you can probably relate to the dilemma we faced when we moved from Kansas to Central New Jersey four years ago. We needed to learn in only three days the ins and outs of attending a New Jersey public school. Our two daughters would be enrolling in an intermediate school and an elementary school.
So we went online. We visited the school district’s website.
This is what we saw:
Where do we navigate first?
The website is not designed for a novice to the New Jersey public school system.
Where’s the Parent’s Handbook? What will I find in the Parent Portal? Where do I find information about how to prepare for the first day of school? How do I know the information I find here is updated? Some of the text states “Updated on Sept. 15, 2010.”
I felt lost.
The website creators did not have me in mind. They were unaware what the customer experience would be for a profile like me: a new parent of the school, new to New Jersey, with two children.
Website creators assumed visitors will have the same level of understanding that the creators have. But we didn’t.
“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind,” wrote Chip and Dan Heath.
Your boss has had enough. He agrees with you that there’s too much writing work to do and not enough in-house peoplepower (combining men + women + power) to do it.
He asks you to find a copywriter. In the long term, hiring a professional will ease your work load, but in the meantime, you have a new assignment in your job description. Find the right copywriter. Your manager may make the final decision, but he’s depending on you to do the homework.
Who do you recommend to hire? It’s important to choose the right one, not only to look good for the boss. You’ll be the main contact for the copywriter, so find someone you prefer to work with.
All those ideas swimming in your head are finally on paper. The draft of the sales copy is saved in a file. You wrote your email. A chapter of the book has been written. You realize you’re not done, but it feels good to have completed the first draft.
Ready to make your copy 50 percent better? Thought I’d share some tips everybody can use to improve their writing today.
First, let’s take a look at two ways to describe a city’s landmark.
“The location is Western Australian. In the city center, just near a road, stood a monument about dead men and boys, some really young. A really hard time was had by them. It was a very long time before the community simply went back to a routine of school, work and marriage, but not seen by outsiders.”
Confused when reading the description? Already bored you to tears? Yes, it was mind-numbing to read.
Let’s see the description with exquisite detail. Read how M.L. Stedman portrayed the city’s landmark in her book, The Light Between Oceans, voted the Best Historical Novel by 1.5 million voters on Goodreads.
“… hard-bitten experiences that marked any West Australian town. In the middle of the handkerchief of grass near the main street stood the fresh granite obelisk listing the men and boys, some scarcely sixteen, who would not be coming back to plow the fields or fell the trees, would not be finishing their lessons, though many in the town held their breath, waiting for them anyway. Gradually, lives wove together once again into a practical sort of fabric in which every thread crossed and recrossed the others through school and work and marriage, embroidering connections invisible to those not from town.”
Now that’s an example of award-winning writing. How did she do that? We may not strive to win prizes for writing the best novel of the year — well, we may not all want to write a novel — but we can improve the writing we do, every day.