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Copywriting In The Digital Age: Avoiding The Horror Show

Copywriting In The Digital Age: Avoiding The Horror Show

Internet and mobile communications have become such an integral part of our daily lives (both work and leisure) that it’s getting harder and harder for most of us to remember life in the pre-digital age. And while one could wax poetic about the simpler times before 24/7/365 connectivity, those days – and the tried and true ways organizations once communicated during them – are gone forever.

But sometimes old habits die hard, and this adage seems particularly true of communications tactics from another age. Like zombies from the Walking Dead, brands that employ these outdated methods seem to exist between two worlds, awkwardly stumbling forward in search of meaningful customer connections.

The result? Clients head for the hills.

This tactical horror show of sorts contains many top rated episodes, but my personal favorite is the one about digital copywriting.

Perhaps you’ve seen it? The episode begins with a tight closeup of a beautiful website. I mean this thing is nice! It’s well organized and has amazing photography. The typeface is even modern. But then the camera slowly pans down and that’s when you see it…


Like a monster created in a lab, this copy is a strange mix of writing styles, tenses and voices, all crammed into one big body. Invariably the product of many authors and contributors, Frankencopy merely succeeds in filling up a website with a large number of words. Frighteningly enough, this communications tactic provides little customer value, and typically results in confusion and frustration on the part of the reader.

Frankencopy is the relic of an older age, and was once seen mainly in traditional printed materials like brochures and sales flyers. These communication pieces often went through many iterations over the course of their lives, providing the perfect environment for the monstrocity to arise. In times past, Frankencopy was mostly embarrassing; in the digital age, it’s absolutely unforgiving.

So what’s changed?

Well, pretty much everything.

These days, companies no longer have the luxury of marketing to a captive audience. And not only do they have to contend with shrinking attention spans, they have to navigate an increasingly mobile environment in which screen sizes also continue to shrink (I’m looking at you Apple Watch).

For these reasons and many others, creating sloppy copy is no longer practical or profitable.

Today, less is more when it comes to digital copywriting (and that applies equally to websites, banner ads, emails, and yes, blog posts). In our 140-character world, simple sells. Now more than ever brands must search for ways to keep their digital copy concise and approachable. For instance, most people won’t spend the time to read an entire paragraph; instead they’ll scan it.

  • So highlight key points by enlarging certain sentences
  • Use bullet points
  • Breaking long paragraphs up is also a good idea
  • And don’t be afraid to start a sentence with and (if it helps with the flow)

Additionally, keep in mind that digital platforms (particularly mobile devices) present considerable space limitations. So now more than ever you must keep your copy in context. Don’t use five words when it takes three. On a mobile screen those two extra words take up valuable inches.

Finally, don’t forget to keep your digital copy interesting and useful to your audience (even for call-to-action buttons). After all, the ultimate reason prospective customers consume content is to gather information on a company, product or service. What your organization has to say is pretty darn important. Just don’t say it with Frankencopy.