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Be honest

For web writers, honesty means two things: presenting the facts and being true to your company. It’s a combination of accuracy and sincerity. Tell the truth and be nice. Don’t brag about how great you are. Focus on your strengths and present them carefully. People will know when you’re lying to them. Don’t say an offer is “Just for you” if you’re sending it to hundreds of readers.

Be careful

Along with checking for errors, you should also make sure your work is trustworthy and reliable. Back up your claims with facts and concrete examples. Don’t exaggerate or overpromise. For example, if it takes an hour to purchase something over the phone, don’t say it’s a quick call. Or, if you’re specifying how many readers you have, don’t lie about the number.

Check your facts and sources. When reading through a draft, pick out any details you consider to be facts and verify them. If you’re citing another writer’s work or referencing a study, link to it. When you’ve done your research, it will come through in your writing.

Tell the truth

Make sure your writing speaks the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Even if you have the best intentions, little white lies can sometimes sneak in. Be especially aware of this when you’re writing marketing copy. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, it’s tempting to say things that sound nice but aren’t exactly true. As Anne Lamott says, take out the lies and the boring parts.1

Check in with your own feelings regularly. As you’re working on each sentence, make sure the writing is sincere. It should represent your real feelings or attitude on the topic. If you feel like you’re pretending or forcing specific words into a phrase, you may need to pull the language back toward reality.

Be careful with adjectives and modifiers. It’s easy to overuse descriptive words and leave readers feeling unsatisfied. Replace fluffy modifiers with concrete ideas. Here are a few examples to avoid:

  • amazing
  • artisanal
  • beautiful
  • dynamic
  • industry-leading
  • innovative
  • intuitive
  • memorable
  • natural
  • powerful
  • revolutionary
  • unique
  • everyone’s favorite
  • it’s never been easier

Show readers how your product is different or why it’s great; don’t tell them how to feel. Avoid being melodramatic:

  • With our intuitive design tools creating the site you’ve always wanted is easier than you ever imagined. (www.godaddy.com)

Instead, add honest, useful details:

  • Choose from simple templates or customize your site over FTP.

Point out specific things you can do for the reader, instead of assuming you know what they want.

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