Kate Waddon Copywriting

We all need words. Let me help you find the right ones.

Why you can’t just copy and paste your copy – website writing versus printed material text

“Can’t you just copy it from our existing website?” Sorry folks, no cutting corners (or cutting and pasting) here. Web copy does not translate well to print (or vice versa), even when you’re talking about the same product to pretty much the same audience.

Just these last few days, I’ve been writing brochure copy. I’ve written for this client before, and up until now, it’s all been web copy. Switching from updating the website to starting on the brochure, with only a quick coffee break in between, was not a good plan. After I’d been writing for a while, I realised that I’d been automatically writing SEO-type headers. New habits die hard.  Oh and don’t type in a hyperlink (red face…).

So, the obvious aside, why do we need to write differently for web and printed copy?

It’s largely because people read differently depending on whether they are looking at a screen or at printed text.* Faced with something on paper, we are more likely to read it “properly”, from beginning to end, like we were taught at school. Looking at a web page, we go more anarchic, our eyes wandering all over the page, looking for headers and snippets that allow us to get to the point quickly. I don’t know if it’s reverence for the written-down word or simply a time issue, but I bet most of us read more carefully when we’re holding a piece of paper. Web copy deals with scan reading by keeping sections short and well-signposted.

Printed stuff is, well, posher. There is an expectation that printed material is a bit more formal. There’s less reliance on nice, lazy punctuation, like hyphens. The convention tends to be more “it is”  than “it’s”. This doesn’t mean that the language has to be less contemporary or more straight-laced, and it still needs to be clear (don’t suddenly morph into a Victorian author just because you’ll see your work in print).

Proofreading has to be even more careful. It’s one thing emailing your designer to say “Argh, just noticed a typo!”  –  it’s quite another to take delivery of 2,000 leaflets and spot you’ve got your name wrong on the front cover… I’m about to start on a brochure proofreading project – wise people.

With any printed copy, please make sure you like it. Websites can be changed easily, whereas a flyer is a commitment. Make sure that the writing and design (or the writer and designer) work closely together to make the best use of the space. Future-proof a brochure by not putting this year’s prices or dates on it – a link to the website with its nice updateable format is a good plan here.

So you see, this is not what we wily writers do to drum up a few extra quid. The same principles of readability, clarity, accuracy and tone apply – but those few tweaks between media can make all the difference.



*OK, for the purposes of this post, let’s forget about Kindles etc and reading the newspapers on your tablet. It’s going to confuse my point. And me.

Content calendars – blogging for the organised

I’m still blogging about blogging. Here’s another way of beating blogger’s block – the content calendar. This is simply a diarised list (written on the spreadsheet or table of your choice depending on how much you like playing with formats) that lays out what you are going to blog about and when.

I’ve just compiled a 12-month blog calendar for a client. 52 blog topics, sorted. OK, they all need writing now, but at least that awful, blank, constipated feeling of “eek, nothing to write about” is no longer a problem. This is a rather extreme example: a year’s worth of blogs is a pretty long list. However, a blog plan a few weeks long is definitely doable; and here are a few tips on putting together a simple schedule.

Some businesses have a natural advantage when it comes to forward planning. If you are writing about a hotel or restaurant, the year has a lovely, easy rhythm that you can follow. OK, it’s a bit tight for Valentine’s Day now; but there’s Mother’s Day and Easter coming up, and probably lots of lovely days out coming up in your local area as spring (allegedly) creeps closer. Christmas and New Year have all sorts of splendid potential topics you can hang a blog post from. Food producers also operate seasonally, making a calendar nice and predictable (in a good way).

Even if your business doesn’t initially seem to lend itself to easy planning, have another think. Building and related trades for example can always relate to the Good Old British weather – good time of year to check for leaks etc – and really use their blogs to encourage trade in quieter periods. My manifestation dots (glass) clients can blog about solar glare in the summer months and keeping the heat in during the colder periods. Or vice versa, if you need your customers to book well in advance.

Check out what’s going on locally. Various “What’s On in Cornwall” websites gave me some nice ideas for content which can be planned in for the next few months. Festivals, shows, markets, launches can all be related back to local businesses in all sorts of ways.

If your business is multi-faceted, you can share your blog posts between all the different areas by planning ahead. A bar can diarise its blog posts to be food; wine; parties; coffees; cocktails; beers; any other offers, and then start again. Retailers can take a different product to focus on each time, and perhaps rotate them by department.

And importantly, stray off the path a bit with your blog. If you’re writing for a wedding venue, your posts may become a bit repetitive if you write about receptions every week. Do a piece on unusual musical offers for parties, on alternative wedding cakes, on the best bubble-blowing entertainers for younger guests. Refer back to your business, but enjoy running with a fun, lively topic. Breaking down your offer into smaller topics gives you a blog calendar that stretches easily into months’ worth of posts.

But of course, leave yourself a bit of flexibility. You don’t have to stick to your calendar too vigorously – it’s a plan, not a school timetable. Nobody’s going to give you detention for a last-minute change of topic. Sometimes, something in the news is irresistible to your subject, and you have to go with it. I’m a bit sick of Fifty Shades of Tenuous Articles this week, but hey, let’s keep things zeitgeisty. If you can tie in (ho ho ho) your cauliflower-growing business with the latest bonkbuster, then good luck to you. If there’s an item in the news to do with anything wordy, I will happily deviate (careful now) from my planned blog post for that week, choosing to write about what’s current.

It’s definitely worth a try – and if it proves awkward to stick to a calendar, at the very least you have a list of future topics. And hey, you can even colour-code them. Ooooooooh!