Archives for August 2010
Confused about the differences between online content and online copy? Join the crowd. Merriam-Webster’s* defines content as “the principal substance (as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a World Wide Web site.” The Web Content Style Guide (McGovern, et al.), says that content is knowledge that’s been formally produced into media (text, graphics, video, animation, etc.). Some Web experts consider content and copy synonymous.
Regardless of the debate between content vs. copy, let’s discuss why good copy is so vital to a website’s success. Most people have websites to achieve the following:
* Provide information
* Sell products
* Sell services
All-graphic sites often fall into the category of online brochures. And when a business says it wants nothing more than an online brochure, it probably means that the website is not-and is not expected to be-the primary source of income.
While it’s possible for an all-graphic website to convey a product or service effectively, why are there so few-in terms of percentage-on the Web? Because of the need for search engines: those awesome software programs that bring us most of our visitors.
If you have an online business, and were given the choice between having a website with either graphics or copy, which would you choose? Most online business owners value search engines and visitors (VIZBOTS).** And most search engines have great regard for relevant copy, and no interest in graphics.
Text. Graphics. Audio. Video. All these features can offer relevance. But for a moment, try thinking of your website as a kingdom and your copy as king. A king reclines regally on his throne, surrounded by those who serve in various capacities. His ability to delegate wisely makes a profound difference in the outcome of the kingdom. Every person at every level has a job and understands the kingdom’s hierarchy. Common threads. Common goals. Everyone wins.
Would His Royal Highness perch on the edge of the throne, timidly raise his hand and say, “‘Scuse me, guys. May I speak?” Nope. Why should he? Further, should he roar to get attention? Never. He simply must be where he belongs-surrounded by those props and people that make him look majestic-so he can command and control for the good of the kingdom.
If you have a website, why not treat your visitors as if they were royalty? Create peerless copy. And make sure the best copy is placed on your first page, first screen. Regardless of writing style, these words have a mission: they must let visitors know how the website can fill their needs or help meet their goals. And they must entice search engine robots.
Although it’s important to have unusually good copy on the first page, it’s also important to brighten every page with excellent copy for VIZBOTS. Good copy is a tapestry woven with the best of grammar, HTML, marketing, sales, research, search engine optimization, programming, and customer service.
Whether copy is king, content is king, or copy is content, copy deserves respect. Big time. Learn more about the importance of copy from experts like Mike Fortin, Gerry McGovern, Nick Usborne, Jill Whalen, and Marcia Yudkin. Then go back to your website, do an analysis, and-if necessary-get busy and create copy worthy of your VIZBOTS. Resources:
* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (2003).
** VIZBOTS: site visitors and search engine robots
Have you ever wondered if it’s okay to say, “The corporation had their records audited” or whether you should say, “The corporation had its records audited”? This is basically a subject-verb agreement issue. Let’s begin by reviewing what style guides say regarding this issue: “Is a corporation a single entity or a group of people?”
Let’s look at it this way: if Company X is an entity, then anyone writing about it should probably say, “Company X launched its latest money-saving offer.” Just my opinion. Now let’s go to the experts.
The Gregg Reference Manual, Ninth Edition, by William Sabin says that when using organizational names, treat them as either singular or plural (but not both). Ordinarily, it suggests you treat the name as singular unless you wish to emphasize the individuals who make up the organization. In that case, use the plural.
Gregg uses these examples to make sure there’s subject-verb agreement:
Brooks & Rice has lost its lease. It is not looking for a new location. OR Brooks & Rice have lost their lease. They are now looking for…But NOT Brooks & Rice has lost its lease. They are now looking…
THEY or IT? If the organization is referred to as “they” or “who,” use a plural verb with the company name. If the organization is referred to as “it” or “which,” use a singular verb.
Professor Charles Darling says, “The names of companies and other organizations are usually regarded as singular, regardless of their ending: ‘General Motors has announced its fall lineup of new vehicles.’ Try to avoid the inconsistency that is almost inevitable when you think of corporate entities as a group of individuals: ‘General Motors has announced their fall lineup of new vehicles.'”
Okay. Your assignment: choose whatever helps the reader or listener understand as clearly as possible.
Do you get confused when the plural of a word doesn’t end in “s”?
“Criteria” is plural (like “phenomena”), while “criterion” is singular, like “phenomenon.” You have one criterion or many criteria. It’s easy to be confused, since some words (e.g., “data” and “media”) are the same whether singular or plural.