Writing for a digital audience

We all read digital copywriting every day. In fact, you’re reading it right now.

However, with a world of digital content available at the click of a button, it can be easy to forget that someone has actually written what you’re reading.

Back in the day (pre-digital times) writers mainly used to write for print outlets like newspapers and magazines. Or for advertising that would appear in printed publications and on billboards.

Today, most of those newspapers and magazines are online and digital marketing is big business. That means writers are mostly writing for a digital audience (with the exception of book authors).

So, what’s the difference between writing for digital and print?

Basically, people read differently online. There is more scanning involved and it’s less methodical.

The reason for this is that people want answers – fast. Plus, there is so much information available that they can quickly jump to another website to find what they’re looking for.

And let’s not forget that the average adult attention span is now eight seconds, so writers have to catch their attention straight away.

Digital copywriting is indeed a skill, and one that takes time to get right.

To find out more, let’s take a look at what it involves.

The F Pattern

The F Pattern was discovered during an eye-tracking study by the NNGroup. It found that when reading online, most people concentrate at the top of the page and then scan down in an ‘F’ pattern.

The image below better explains the concept.

As you can see, the areas that people focused on the most are in red, and the pattern looks like the letter F.

This is useful to know when writing because it helps to prioritise important information in the first two paragraphs.

You will also notice that a lot of attention is placed at the start of sentences. That provides another clue about how to write for digital consumption, so be sure to start sentences in an enticing way.

The F Pattern is not a uniform law to follow when writing for digital though. It’s a concept and provides a handy outline for writers, but the way people consume digital content continues to evolve.

The most important thing to remember is that readers are human, and you want them to engage with the writing.

Use plain language

Writing clearly and simply should always be priority number one.

Why? It’s easier to understand and it never helps to write in a way that slows the reader down. Remember, the adult attention span is short and there is world of competing content out there for them to find.

For example, instead of the word “advise”, use “tell”. Not only is it a simpler word, but it sounds less formal, which helps to build trust.

Likewise, short sentences are your friend when writing for digital. The general rule is no more than 20 words per sentence, and one to two sentences for each paragraph.

Again, shorter sentences are easier to understand, which means people can read quicker.

Style and tone are equally as important and it’s best practice to avoid clichés and jargon – where possible.

Instead, tell the reader how useful something is and speak to them directly by using “you” and “you’re”. It will make the writing seem more like a conversation and keep them reading to find out more.

Always edit

Ernest Hemingway famously said, “The first draft of anything is shit.”*

And do you know what? He was right.

Never underestimate the power of editing, especially when writing for a digital audience. Editing helps to spot errors and ensures that a piece of writing flows – even if it means deleting sections that don’t work.

To help you along the way, here is a little checklist of questions for reviewing digital copywriting:

  • Is the important information at the top?
  • Is the language clear and simple?
  • Does it contain jargon or clichés?
  • Are the sentences and paragraphs short?
  • Does it speak to the reader?

By asking those questions, you can make sure the writing is as digital-friendly as possible. That way it won’t get lost in the vast world of the internet.

So, whatever your do, always review before hitting publish on a blog post or pressing send on an email campaign. You will thank yourself later.

* Apologies for the swear word, but it was necessary for the quote.

Looking for a copywriter? I can help. Feel free to get in touch at hello@hayleymaguire.com

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