Writing Content that Works for a Living

by Erin Kissane

45 Reader Comments

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  1. Thanks for your thoughts! Love em!

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  2. what rules am i talking about? “dont make user think”. smashing magazine writes this and i believe that academic toolkit should read it.

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  3. Fair points.  But here’s the thing . . . good writing is good writing.  The same principles apply whether you’re writing a sonnet, a sermon or a summons, or a sestina.

    Make it clear, make clean and make it nice.

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  4. I’m an SEO copywriter myself, and I found your article extremely clear and helpful.  It’s easy to fall into the pitfalls of not communicating, especially when what you’re trying to say is clear and familiar to yourself.  Copywriting shouldn’t be undertaken lightly—it’s how your customers will see you, and should be accorded that respect.

    Heidi

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  5. I think you redesigned.aligned.  PS nice article.

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  6. Make it simple should have included a fifth step (and good for any writing—not just for products but articles too).

    5. Is it concise?

    You talked about academictoolkit.com wasting your time—but then you wasted ours.  So many details, and not a lot to gain from it.  80-90% of your article was about poor writing, and then 75% of that was illustration rather than teaching.  There were some good points, and certainly valid ones, but one that you may have missed (but certainly portrayed) was to keep it brief.

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  7. Website copy is too frequently the unwanted child handed to marketing types with too little time to do it, approached with an “I have to do that too?” attitude and executed with a “let’s just get something up” mentality.

    Scintillating, SEO savvy copy with a personality should be embraced and treated as a matter of urgency. If your company does not have the skill set or time internally to produce bumff-free and SEO-focused material, outsource!

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  8. “Solutioning”?? “Solutioning”???

    An article about good copy/content and you’ll mangle it with a “nerb” (noun verb) (hey if you can make up words that you think will make your point so can I) – and not just sneak it into the body content either but stick it up big and bold as a section header!

    Perhaps you’re doing it intentionally to poke fun at the original article you’re trashing but remember tongue in cheek doesn’t always translate well on this here Interweb thing without appropriate visual clues (quotation marks help).

    I further concur with the other suggestions that you took too long to get to the point, and should have spent more time on the “Words with jobs” aspect rather than teasing it for a part two. Although I guess $200 is better than $100 any day right.

    All in all, for an article on “Content that Works” this… doesn’t.

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  9. I can understand why so much of the writing on the internet is not very good.  search engines don’t yet make the diference between good and bad writing – so often it is a case of get up as much as possible as quickly as possible.

    Google in their own way have made this worse.  If webmasters could not show ads from adsense there would be a lot less junk on the web.  But that is what we have and will have to live with.

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  10. Hello Erin,
    this is truly the most brilliant analysis of bad website copy i´ve ever read – as you put it, copy that only takes up space. Glorious! I already mailed the link to your article to my colleagues in my company, for they need to be updated in this matter urgently, too!!!
    Greetings
    Alexander

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  11. Brilliantly written of course, but amusing too. The bad website copy is the sort of thing we encounter on a daily basis but somehow have gotten so used to it that we just let it wash over us and move onto the next site.

    Not only does succinct and to-the-point copy ‘work for a living’ but it comes as a breath of fresh air too.

    Well done.
    Alan.

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  12. It seems that too many people don’t know how to write in plain English – be it on the web or not. Because I first thought that your ‘bad copy’ example was generated by a tool like Gobbledygook generator on “Plain English site (Plain English Campaign UK)”:http://www.textism.com

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  13. Plain English link should have been http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/examples.htm

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  14. The old adage about writing to an audience with an 8th grade level of comprehension is troubling to many writers. They want to be esoteric, sound sophisticated and worldly. The problem is that they bore their audience or lose them altogether.

    Content and copy has to be engaging, entertaining and understandable. It should address the topic honestly while taking the reader to the next sentence and paragraph. The goal of the writing must be considered, but the means to that goal cannot be ignored. Keeping the reader’s attention from the first sentence to the last is the very definition of success. Attempts at sounding scholarly come off sounding perfunctory and waste a writer’s time.

    The Internet does not have time for bad writing.  Write to an 8th grade audience and you will be addressing every reader.

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  15. If these stats are accurate, even through this down economy, writing is up and kicking.  Pretty inspirational!

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  16. Great article. I’m a designer, so it’s great to see the other side.

    Stu.

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  17. I think more and more industries and companies are (wisely) going the way of hiring qualified content writers, rather than diving in to a world they are neither qualified nor experienced at.  Just look at an outsource site, like, say, www.odesk.com, and you will see increasing openings for writers.  It’s nice to see some sites are wising up and doing it right the first time.

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  18. “Cheap Contacts”:href=“http://eyecontactlenses.org/cheap-contacts.html

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  19. The four point summary was what I was looking for.  Being pretty disorganized myself, I think it is important to supply myself with a template before trying to put works on a web page. Very helpful indeed.  Thanks.

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  20. Good writing and valuable content results in visitors returning to your website more often.

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  21. Erin presents a very valid argument. Most business owners and website owners overlook the one simple thing that separates success from failure, and that’s to offer something of value to your reader or customer. Writing quality content for the web is a tricky thing and is something that not alot of people understand (Which would explain why most online business’ fail…). The rule is pretty simple:

    Understand your market, present concrete benefits which directly target that market and keep it simple. Most sites have a “It’s all about Me” sort of site offering a bunch of features that doesn’t speak to the reader (as with academictoolkit.com). Features don’t sell, benefits do. Great article Erin!
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  22. I totally agree.  I think when it comes to writing of any sort, say it simply and clearly.  That’s it.  I hate when copy is overly familiar instead of professional and universally accessible.  It’s a fine line, and it takes a lot of practice to get it right, but well-written content can be what convinces a customer to buy a product.

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  23. An excellent article. Much of the Web copy you come across these days seems to be a rehash of an original article, making it difficult to understand at times the points being made.

    Thanks for an excellent article.

    Bob

    “home business”,http://www.homebusinesslink.com

     

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  24. the secret to a successful sales letter writing would be writing content which is both concise and psychologically appealing.

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  25. I’m a bit tired of seeing wordpress sites filled with rubbish spun articles from content farms. I’m still not sure whether content should be short and to the point or longer with better keywords. do people read it or scan it looking for keywords.

    Build your own chicken coop

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