Attention spans seem to be getting smaller because of all the attractions and distractions in today’s society, and general education standards appear to be drifting lower and lower. And, as mentioned in a another blog, there are more and more advertisers competing for the public’s attention.By the way, if you can find a copy of the front page of the NY Times published anytime in the 1930s – either online or a hard copy, I guarantee you will have trouble getting through some of the sentences and paragraphs on that page. Yet educated people in that era could do so quite easily.
Have you ever run into someone who couldn’t do simple math without a calculator? Hmmm….
Again, to be charitable, most people today have many concerns demanding their attention. It’s still a mad, mad world, and now it’s also a fast, fast world.
When Speed Matters More Than Size
If you were to try to pitch a news release to someone in any of the major media, and you had no prior experience in pitching the media, you would soon discover you had just seconds to grab that person’s attention and convince him or her to listen to your full pitch.
Just seconds… or you would be brushed off. Perhaps politely, but swiftly.
In your webpage copy, brochures, ads, commercials, whatever… you need to get your basic message across pretty much up front… or at least use an attention-grabber that holds the viewer’s or listener’s attention long enough for you to expand on your full message.
Now with mobile, as also mentioned in an earlier blog, you have only 5 or 6 seconds to have your page load on a mobile device before the vast majority of mobile users will leave. Hopefully, your website utilizes responsive web design (RWD).
When Copywriting, Write! Then Apply the Rules
When you begin writing your copy, forget the rules and just write! When you’ve finished a pretty good first draft, it’s time to apply some rules.
You need to go over and over that first draft and get rid of redundancies, shorten overly long sentences and cull unnecessary phrases and words. For instance, get rid of phrases like, “in order to”… Most times, you can just use “to.” Example: “He pulled into the gas station in order to fill up with gas.” Use this instead, “He pulled into the gas station to fill up with gas.” That second sentence is much easier to read swiftly. Likewise, the phrase “in which to” can often be shortened to simply, “to.”
Sure, you want to use good grammar when you are writing copy. But don’t let Professor Fogbound’s excessive ideas of what constitutes good grammar dull down the communication of your message. For instance, don’t worry about starting a sentence with “And,” if that sentence is carrying on a major thought from the prior sentence. And notice I started a previous sentence with “But,” and this sentence with “And.”
When you have finished writing, read your copy out loud to another person. You will find areas where you stumble over your own words, or your listener doesn’t “get” something. So you edit and trim some more.
Number One Rule of Copywriting
The most important “rule” when copywriting, is to keep in mind the viewpoint of the target market you are trying to reach with your message. When I finish a piece of detailed copy, I often switch chairs and read what I’ve written as though I’ve never seen it before. I also occupy the viewpoint of the people I am trying to reach with my message and see if I really “get” it.
In summary, today more than ever before, you need to get the gist of your message across quickly in your webpages, ads, etc. You can expand on the message once people have been “pulled” into your communication piece because of your attention grabbing headline, or the first few sentences you have written.
It really is a Fast, Fast, Mad, Mad World. Make sure your webpages and your messages are up to speed.