I like following BusinessKnowhow.com for tips. The latest edition (http://www.businessknowhow.com/internet/web-copy-mistakes.htm) offers hints on effective business communications. Here is an excerpt:
1. Using company-focused language Open your Web site copy with “We’re the largest sock retailer in the Midwest”, and your visitor thinks “Great. So what?”
2. Touting features, not benefits You don’t buy a vacuum cleaner for its powerful motor. You buy it because it cleans your floors and your home. The first one is a feature, and the second is a benefit.
3. Relying on business-speak There are two types of business-speak: jargon, understandable only to those in the industry, and buzzwords, trite words and phrases that lose their impact through constant repetition. Rather than saying a deal creates “synergy”, for example, you can say that the deal combines your supply chain with company x’s worldwide distribution network for next day deliveries.
4. Writing in the passive voice Lively, active verbs make your copy more interesting to read.
5. Writing for the wrong audience If you write your copy as if you’re writing an academic paper, your average reader will click away. When you’re writing for your Web site, write for your customers and prospective customers, not a college professor. Use a conversational tone and avoid complex words that will send your readers to the dictionary.
6. Creating large blocks of text Unlike the printed page, it’s difficult to read large blocks of text on a computer monitor. Limit your paragraphs to just a few sentences. Also, use bulleted lists to make it easy to scan your text and pick out the important thoughts.
7. Publishing before proofreading It’s tempting to publish your copy as soon as you’re finished writing. But make sure you thoroughly proofread it before posting it on your Web site.
8. Misusing quotation marks Many people will put a word in quotation marks to emphasize it. But boldface type or an underline is more effective. Quotation marks should only be used to indicate dialog, a direct quote from another source or irony. If you use quote marks for emphasis, they’re actually read as an ironic statement.
9. Overusing your caps lock button Using initial caps on words for emphasis is another common mistake. Often people will capitalize the first letter of every important noun in a sentence. Again, using boldface or underline would be better than breaking one of the simplest rules of grammar.
10. Mixing metaphors Perhaps one of the most amusing mistakes for readers, mixed metaphors create a jumbled image by combining two unrelated, but common metaphors. For example: “He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns.”
Following these 10 tips can help you focus your text and create a professional impression on your site visitors.