Lists that link to stories, teaser text and links to related stories account for nearly half of the “eye stops” (what we non-scientists call “looking”) on the Web.
The Poynter Institute Eyetrack07 study
You’re not still writing ‘click here’ and ‘read more,’ are you?
When it comes to link writing, “click here” is so 1996. We’re talking 14.4k modems, a CompuServe account and the Spice Girls singing “Wannabe” on your portable electronic device, aka a Sony Discman.
Remember Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal? Your “click here” link does.
“But our visitors have never been on the Web,” you explain. “They have no idea what blue underlined words mean unless we spell it out for them.”
You know what? Mom opened a Twitter account last year; Dad watches YouTube videos on his iPad; and your Web visitors know what a link is.
(Still think they don’t? Does that mean you believe they made all the arrangements to get online just so they could visit your website? “I don’t know what this browser thingy is, but I can’t wait to get on the World Wide Web so I can see for myself this XYZCompany.com everybody’s talking about.”)
The problems with the weakest links
Besides being dated, “click here” and “read more”:
- Aren’t scannable. Because links are blue and underlined, they stand out, making them among the most scannable elements on your Web page. That gives links the ability to lift your ideas off the screen. But how are you using that superpower if the ideas you highlight essentially say, “push this button”?
- Aren’t actionable. Writing “read more” for a link is like writing “buy this” for an ad. They’re calls to action, sure. But not very persuasive ones. Why should I click, read or buy? That’s your copy.
- Clutter up your copy. Every time you write “click here” or “read more,” you’re adding at least two extra words to your Web page.
Fix the weakest links
So how can drag your 1996 links into the 21st century?
1. Focus links on the topic, not on the action. Instead of focusing on the action — aka, “click here” or “read more” — focus on the topic. Don’t tell Web visitors to click; tell them what they’ll find if they do click. Notice how focusing on the topic lifts the idea off the screen, promises the reader a benefit and slenderizes the sentence.
Don’t: To learn to write better links, click here.
Do: Learn to write better links.
2. Don’t write about mechanics or the system. “Click here” and “read more” have some ugly cousins: URLs, email addresses and other references to the mechanics of the Web. You wouldn’t write, “turn page” in a publication. Why write, “point your browser at” online?
3. Write mostly verb-based links. Try starting with a strong verb and an implied “you.” Putting the reader first and leaning on strong verbs makes for good writing, whether you’re crafting links or brochures.
Don’t: Videos of the ceremony are available at StopMeBeforeITweetAgain.com.
Do: View videos of the ceremony.
Get the word out on the Web
Want to write microcontent that lifts your ideas off the page?
- Rev Up Readership members: Read the whole story.
- Invite Ann’s team in to handle a Web writing or editing project.
- Bring Ann to your organization for a microcontent writing workshop.
- Work with Ann to polish your writing skills in one-on-one writing coaching sessions.
- Get dozens of tipsheets on writing better display copy on RevUpReadership.com.
- Study Ann’s Reaching Readers Online system.
- Find out about Ann’s next Web, microcontent or social media writing teleseminar.
- Get free writing tips every month when you subscribe to our e-zine.
“Graphics/fact boxes/breakouts, when done well, serve as welcome mats for … stories.”
Curtis Hubbard, staff writer, Daily Camera
Pit dueling ideas in columns and rows
Are you writing a face-off between your technology and the alternative? Juxtaposing competing information and ideas? Comparing and contrasting products or services?
If so, a table is probably the best format for your article.
I’ve been enjoying webifying magazine articles for EADS Key Touch magazine’s website this year. I often find myself organizing the original information into a table.
Tip: If you find yourself repeating words and phrases, it may be a clue that you need a table. In one story for EADS, for instance, each section had a list of items “for digital” and “against analogue.” If you could make those repeated items column headers, you’ve probably got yourself a table.
Open the Creativity Toolbox
Want to come up with fresh ways of telling the same old story?
- Bring Ann to your organization for a workshop on Opening the Creativity Toolbox.
- Get dozens of tipsheets on developing creative story approaches at RevUpReadership.com.
- Get ideas for making your own communications more creative with a communication review.
“If we can open your mind to laughter, we can slip in a little information.”
Virginia Tooper, American humorist
Try these fill-in-the-blanks jokes
Want to add humor to your piece? Two professional speakers shared these formulas in SpeakerNet News, a weekly e-zine for professional speakers:
I know, I know. Your organization is overloaded with jargon. Take advantage of the situation, suggests Paul Seaburn, “The Humor Handyman,” by writing funny definitions for the worst gobbledygook.
Use the formula “Back where I come from, a ___ is a ___.”
“Back where I come from,” Seaburn says, “‘megahertz’ is a huge car rental company, ‘Tai Bo’ is the last thing you do to a present, and ‘preferred carrier’ is a mailman who doesn’t read your magazines.”
Light bulb jokes
Write your own light bulb jokes by asking, “How many ____s [members of your audience] does it take to screw in a light bulb?” Seaburn suggests. Or twist the old light bulb joke by making it a remote control:
“How many managers does it take to set the clock on a VCR?” he asks. “No one knows, because they can never find the time.”
Writing an executive speech? You may be able to play off the location of the talk, says corporate comedian David Glickman. One approach: Find a town within 30 miles that starts with a V. Then play with, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From V___.”
“I know that’s true,” Glickman says, “because I read it in that local best-seller, ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From V___.‘”
Get humor help
Are you looking for someone else to fill in the blanks? Glickman and Seaburn write custom corporate humor.
Want to make your copy more amusing?
- Invite Ann’s team in to handle a special writing project.
- Bring Ann to your organization for a “Make Your Copy More Creative” workshop.
- Work with Ann to make your copy more creative in one-on-one writing coaching sessions.
- Get more tipsheets on corporate humor at RevUpReadership.com.
- Find out about Ann’s next creative writing webinar.
- Subscribe to our free writing tips e-zine.
“Sometimes [mission statements are] created at a retreat in the woods, between the trust fall and the passing of the speaking stick. Vigorous fights over semantics last for hours, even months. Then you end up with some variation of … jargony quasi-poetry.”
Nancy Lublin, CEO of Do Something, in Fast Company
Don’t let the mission statement become the mission
Mission statements may be the most popular management activity since tee time, according to the folks at Bain & Company, a Boston-based consulting firm.
In fact, 90 percent of the executives at 500 companies Bain surveyed had written an official mission statement within the last five years.
Have you ever been sequestered in a conference room for months, putting commas into and taking commas out of the mission statement? Then you know that writing a mission statement can all too quickly cross the line from project to lifestyle.
Get it out …
To avoid devoting the rest of your life to perfecting your mission statement:
- Craft a draft. You can’t develop an effective mission statement by decree, of course, but there’s no reason to start with a blank slate. And who knows better than you the purpose of your communication vehicle? Take a quick stab at a first draft.
- Talk it out. Chat with your staff. Huddle with management. Meet with a couple of key department heads. Have lunch with your editorial board. Call your consultants for their opinions. Run it by a few readers.
- Finish the job. Then, armed with this insight, draft a final statement.
… Then get on with it
If your mission statement takes longer to produce than your annual report, it’s time to rethink the process. Changing “however” to “but” in the mission shouldn’t require a nine-hour, closed-door meeting with everyone who’s ever read your column.
Not to downplay the importance of mission statements, but your statement of purpose isn’t going to get better and better with absurd amounts of time, analysis and input.
Remember: Mission statements should drive your communication efforts — not replace them.
Plan powerful communications
Want to master the art of effective communication planning?
- Get dozens of tipsheets on communication planning at RevUpReadership.com.
- Read Ann’s learning tools on communication planning.
- Subscribe to our free writing tips e-zine.
Sources: Ann Wylie, Planning Powerful Publications, IABC, 2002
“The real focus of companies? Drafting a ‘vision statement’,” San Jose Mercury News, Aug. 15, 1997
Kelley Holland, “In Mission Statements, Bizspeak and Bromides,” The New York Times, Sept. 23, 2007
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Robert Anderson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Check out the new RevUpReadership.com
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In the new RevUpReadership.com, you’ll find:
- New sections on creative communications and communication planning
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“Extremely informative. One of the clearest and most poignant programs on writing for the Web. Every Web developer and new media manager should take this course.”
Daniel Brunell, new media manager, Association of Washington Business
Cut your training costs when you piggyback your program
Save money when you piggyback your workshop by scheduling it when I’m already “in the neighborhood.” Book your program the day before or after another organization’s and split my airfare and ground transportation with the other group.
Ask about piggybacking on my upcoming engagements in:
- Asheville, N.C.: May 5
- Chattanooga, Tenn.: Nov. 30
- Franklin Lakes, N.J.: Oct. 12
- Kansas City, Mo.: March 3
- Memphis, Tenn.: Nov. 18
- New York: Nov. 5
- Pittsburgh: Oct. 28
- Warren, N.J.: Oct. 13
- Washington, D.C.: Oct. 17, Nov. 9-10
Save even more: Ask about my communication association discounts and second-day fee reductions.
Contact me to discuss piggybacking.
Polish your skills at one of these events
Alas, I can’t invite you to the in-house seminars I present for private organizations. But everyone’s invited to these upcoming public seminars in:
- Hershey, Pa., on Oct. 7. “Think Like a Reader,” a half-day workshop for PRSA Central Pennsylvania
- Kansas City, Mo., on March 3. “West Point for Writers: How to Win the War for Readership,” a keynote for Kansas City/IABC’s Business Communicators Summit
- New York on Nov. 5. “Web Writing Boot Camp: How to write Web pages, blog postings, tweets and other status updates that get the word out online,” a one-day workshop for PRSA
- Washington, D.C., on Oct. 17. “Write for Social Media,” a half-day pre-conference seminar for the PRSA 2010 World Conference
Would you like to attend? Please contact meeting planners directly for details.
Can’t make these events? If you’d like to bring me in for a workshop at your organization, contact me.
The folks at Wylie Communications have been enjoying:
- Writing and editing magazine, website and newsletter copy for Saint Luke’s Health System and EADS
- Coaching Nike communicators
- Presenting writing workshops for Nike, PRSA Portland and PRSA Puget Sound
- Presenting webinars for PRSA
Find out when I’m coming to your neighborhood, learn when you can sign up for one of my programs and otherwise keep up with my calendar.
Keep in touch via:
- ComPRehension, PRSA’s blog of public relations strategies and tactics
- Wylie Communications feed, click RSS
- Wylie’s Writing Tips