The Internet is completely changing the nature of the written word. Today, people do a majority of their reading on the web. You could almost go so far as to say that the Internet is about writing. It is certainly the most revolutionary thing that has happened to written language since the birth of the novel.
Writing for the web is like no kind of writing that has come before. It is based primarily on the importance of ease of communication, and the writer's ability to hold and compel an audience to read on just a little further.
And yet, a good web copyist should be as creative, insightful, and talented as the successful novelist or poet. Right now, the Internet is glutted with sub-par copy, just as when the novel first became popular, the market was glutted with the writings of anyone who could go on at length.
But this is not the future of web copy. The future of web copy is one where only sites with the most compelling, high-quality, and captivating copy will be at the top of search engine results. This evolution is going to entail taking the best elements of writing techniques developed over the centuries of human thought and learning, jettisoning the rest, and combining the remainder with revolutionary new styles and techniques that appeal to the average online reader.
Never before has a genre of writing been so heavily dictated by the demands and desires of the reader. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily conducive to the creation of devastatingly brilliant writing. Because the writer must appeal to a bored, skeptical, attention-span-less, and oversaturated reading audience, she is obligated to compromise the quality and integrity of her writing in order to appeal to the most disinterested common denominator.
For the first time in history, the bad habits of readers are overtly, actively, and aggressively shaping the nature of the written word in a way that reduces its complexity and ultimately, its ability to be insightful and coherent.
When Charles Dickens wrote "A Tale of Two Cities," the last thing that concerned him was the need to write short sentences and short paragraphs so that his readers wouldn't get bored and go read "Moby Dick." Just have a look at the opening paragraph of this classic novel:
A web copywriter could easily lose her job writing sentences and paragraphs like that. On the net today, the opening to "A Tale of Two Cities" might read something like this:
Sadly, any writer who does this kind of copy will succeed to some degree, but probably deserves to be fired. The impulse is to rush to meet the demands of the reading market, and met they must certainly be, but this has to be accomplished while maintaining the quality and integrity of the written work. The result of this is excellent copy that stands to be relevant, effective, and compelling well into the future of the Internet.
Web copywriting has opened the world of writing up in amazing ways by casting off many of the stuffy, awkward conventions of literature. To survive its own boom, however, the new style must combine with the old, taking what's always been good about writing, and adding it to the new generation of thought: cold, hard copy.
Classic staples of good writing that must be adhered to include:
That being said, there are some copy techniques that are so effective, and do such a good job of connecting with readers, that they must be taken full advantage of at every turn. Just a few of these are:
The combination of the best of the worlds of literature and copy allows for a highly evolved form of online writing that lets the fewest number of readers possible slip through the cracks.
It is wonderful to write at a time when the creation of text has become a collaborative process between writer and reader. The world of web design must take advantage of this by striking a balance between the technical ability of the writer and the demands of the reader's mind and spirit.
In this way, web copy fully capitalizes on its power position on the Internet, and becomes a 100% effective informational and marketing tool that, by design, can easily keep pace with the ever-growing, ever-hungry beast that is the World Wide Web.