Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Online Writing..THAT SHOULD NOT BE!

Cue the minor-key pipe organ! Call up those webpages! Put the 'appalled gasp' sound effect on standby!

The Blue Ferret has gone mad...MAD, I tell you! Well, okay, just peeved. I see the same thing all over the Web, every day, and it's bugging me. Dull, unconvincing writing in various formats from companies that should know better. Online writing that falls on its face, that doesn't sound anywhere near effective. Writing that infects the reader with Mental Yawning Syndrome.

Come along with me. Hear me name the strangeness in writing you've seen before, but dared not approach. Observe as I reveal the horror - of Online Writing That Should Not Be!

Type 1 - Leveraging Paradigm Shifts for Redundant Stratagems
Corporate-speak. Go ahead, get the shudder over with. Boring, confusing, stuffed-shirt writing that talks endlessly about seemingly nothing. Does anybody actually read all of that? I used to read technical manuals for fun, but reading corporate-speak is even better than The Scarlet Letter for putting me to sleep. I sometimes wonder if companies that use corporate-speak do so to bore their readers into clicking the Buy Now button.

Type 2 - ME-ME-ME-meeeeeee!
Self-congratulatory writing. Better known as, "We Didn't Think About What Our Customers Need to Hear" writing. Heavily feature-oriented (this is not in and of itself a bad thing, but ONLY when outnumbered by benefits). Sometimes it goes beyond that and gets into what I call, "I'm So Great, We're Perfect" mode. That kind of writing does create a mental picture - unfortunately, it's a mental picture of the company's CEO prancing around on a sidewalk, laughing at the poor customers he's so much better than. Very bad for any company's image.

Type 3 - I'm different, like everyone else
"XYZ Corp. is the best choice for your slimy-monster needs. XYZ Corp. has 18 years of experience delivering slimy monsters to companies like yours." Says the same thing as the next guy. And the next. Does Xerox handle websites now? How do they intend to differentiate themselves - "We're number 3,549 to use this exact paragraph. No one else is number 3,549." ?!?

Type 4 - WALLET! Gimme! Grr, bark, drool
This one grows out of the first three. It's writing that's stiff, but aggressive. These companies don't seem to want to connect with customers. They're only after sales, the ineffable bottom line. You don't like it? You're just a number to them. There are more behind you. Get out of the way. Cold, unfeeling prose that would probably jump out of your monitor and smack you upside the head, if that plugin existed.

Type 5 - More keywords! Higher ranking! Out of my way!
Sites desperate for top SEO rankings. The HTML code on their pages look like badly-formatted dictionaries. The writing on them looks like someone wrote up a list of every possible relevant term, ran it through 8 different language translations, and threw it on their site without bothering to see if it actually made SENSE.

Sites like that are geared strictly toward grabbing traffic through Time-Sensitive SEO, but in a way that's both hopelessly skewed and borderline illegal. Fortunately, we now have a term for this: Black hat SEO.

Begone, evil writing! (Anybody got any holy water?) All of you, trouble us Web customers no more!

Wait, you say YOU may have some Online Writing That Should Not Be growing on your organization? Quick, lance it!

Strategies for Ridding Yourself of Online Writing That Should Not Be
Three tips, before I crawl back into my crypt (er, I mean, go back to work. Sorry, got too far into character there.):

1. Use Bullfighter. I blogged about Bullfighter the other day, and ever since then I've been having a blast subjecting my work to its bull-eyed scrutiny. (The only "bull" it caught in this article was the corporate-speak subhead.) It's free and simple to use. Cut out the bull before you publish!

2. Call an editor or proofreader. Another set of eyes and a new perspective. It works wonders, honest. There will always be things you'll miss - plus, if you've got one of THESE writing types, they can take your writing away and make it better.

3. Call a writer. Like me! I'm a proofreader, an editor, a writer, AND I use Bullfighter! All in one! Back, evil non-effective writing, BACK I say!



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