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Typos, misspellings, hideous grammar, exclamation overkill and run-on sentences all undermine a Web site's message. Your reader will have to work too hard, and you won't have that reader long.
Grabbing a reader's attention is a key point in getting your message out, but there is such a thing as too much grabbing--and the wrong kind of attention. Negative attention can lose a great many visitors and potential clients.
Clean content and neat appearance are not merely a matter of aesthetics. It goes to the core of establishing trust and reliability between a Web site and visitor. Relate it to a deli. A potential customer heard about you through an ad. Cool ad, got his/her attention, so he/she stops by on the way home. On the outside everything looks nice, meets expectation, so the visitor walks in, looking for tonight's sandwich goodies. Once inside it only takes a few seconds to notice the dust on the shelves, the dirty footprints, the unidentifiable smudges on the glass counter-fronts. No matter how good the food smells, if the counterperson has dirty hands or there are papers littering the floor, how many people are going to feel comfortable reaching over a crumb-covered counter to pay for their dinner?
That may sound like a silly comparison to Web content, but really, it's not so far off. The principle stands: clean, neat, appealing content builds comfort and trust. Sloppy, haphazard or distracting content repels, and breaks down credibility. And the principle is very easy to apply to all Web content. Just remember the acronym, "Get It All"
G- et another set of eyes to take an objective look
E- xtra attention to spelling lends credibility
T- ell your message with exciting words; don't rely on graphics
I- talics, bold and all caps are rough on the eyes, use
T- ake the time to read the entire content... backwards (you'll be amazed at what you'll notice this way)
A- lways do one last look-see after it's finished
L- et all content sit for at least a full day before a final edit
L- ose the guesswork--keep a dictionary and grammar/editing reference at your fingertips, and use them often.
Whether your content is a one-line ad or five-page report, taking that little extra time and effort will improve your site, build customer confidence and add respectability. Saving time now and risking poor content quality can end up costing you more later. After all, the object is to get and keep customers at your site; to keep them reading. How long would you have kept reading this article if it had all been written like that first paragraph?
Cherie' Davidson is a freelance writer and Web content developer who lives in the Pacific Northwest with her toy poodle, Auggie Dog, her "energy muse." She has her own freelance writing business, Suitable Words Publication (http://www.suitablewords.com), where she writes and promotes Website content, designs and develops e-books, hires out as a copywriter and writes a wide variety of articles and essays. She has started a blog at http://suitablewords.blogspot.com and a free article site at http://www.writerscontent.com
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