Web Content That Sells

Sooner or later, those who want their Web sites to produce must recognize that it's not all about code and algorithms -- it's about persuasive, targeted content.

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U. of Miami grad, journalism, NCAA basketball scholarship, advanced studies at MIT and Boston University Graduate School of Mass Communications, right brain creative, love to explore the human condition, 10 years as senior staff writer, hi-tech Fortune 500's, 5 years marketing communications manager, 7 years freelance copywriter, former reporter in Germany, sailing instructor in the British West Indies, professional jazz/classical guitarist, articles/essays published in national magazines, currently specializing in optimized content for Web sites. Email me at woods.lee1@gmail.com

Monday, December 11, 2006

Above All, Don't Lose Your Reader's Trust


Careless or wishful statements will destroy a reader's trust in your judgment and in your ability to present your information honestly and objectively. Scan what you write and eliminate or revise any statements that imply bias or irrational arguments. Once lost, credibility is seldom regained.

Avoid Careless Statements

If you check your writing carefully, you’ll avoid the kind of blunder that happened when a senior executive wrote to a potential client. The letter opened with the client's name, John Doolen, his address, and then began, "Dear Bill...." Readers rarely forgive us for even the smallest mistake, concluding that if we are careless on paper we must also be careless
on the job.

An insurance company letter began this way: "Rental car collision insurance is in excess of other coverage, and reimburses you for losses not covered by the." The sentence stopped there, leaving readers adrift. An attorney's letter to a client included the statement, "We are to be paid only in the event a recovery in made and your are not responsible for recovery costs."

The most damaging form of carelessness is the careless thought, thrown down quickly with little or no regard for what is being said: "Our business processes must be both business wise, sound. and have ownership of the employees." I don't know about you, but I don't want to be owned by somebody's business processes. The writer probably meant …"and have ownership BY the employees."

One writer set out to congratulate the mothers of the world, but got a laugh instead: "We have moms with babies who get up at night to care for them." Mothers should be so lucky. The mayor who wrote the following opinion ended up apologizing to a lot of teenagers. "There are still problems in our community that need solutions: speeders, vagrants and juveniles, for example." There is no crime in being a juvenile. He meant to say "juvenile offenders," but that's not what he wrote.

Don’t Let Wishful Statements Spoil Your Credibility

Wishful statements end up on paper because we have either lost control of our objectivity or we have failed to apply the test of reason to what we are saying. The writer who says "The only way to improve customer relations is to start a public relations program" is overlooking any other possibility.

Another writer assumes far too much when she says, "If the researchers at Bell Labs had not gotten lucky, the transistor would never have been invented." A graphic designer's brochure talks about his "top-notch staff...award- winning specialists...masters of their craft...sought-after designer...has no limitations." He forgot to add, walks on water.

Most readers become immediately suspicious when they see absolutes such as "never, always, only," etc. Look carefully at what you have written. Have you called a situation "disastrous" when you really mean "undesirable"? Is something "impossible" or just "difficult"? Don't let your writing control you. Choose words carefully, and keep your writing in touch with reality.

Finally, don't try to nudge readers into drawing conclusions that you have not properly established. Be careful when you make assertions such as "obviously, therefore, as you can see, as a result, and needless to say." It may be needless to you, but your readers may disagree.

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