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25 January 2016  /  
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Structure for Modern Digital Copywriting

For the modern web, responsive content often means best-practice design. As the net evolves we can expect website flexibility to remain important, as digital content needs to be accessible from a multitude of devices.

Standards for good copy have changed and it’s up to content creators to adapt if they want their message to be heard. There are many ways to maximise the attention our audience gives us, and Netable will be relating a wide range of techniques in upcoming blogs.

From technical and UX viewpoints to social copy and all manner of brand storytelling techniques, we have content covered – but structure is critical. Without it, all the polish and potential of great writing is lost.

What is Structure?

No matter what platform you’re writing for, effective structure has likely been established for it. Poetry has verse classifications, films have genre-specific narrative pacing and great tweets incorporate specific hashtags and shortened links.

Structure is arguably the most important feature of any written work. Without it, great prose goes to waste. Research falls flat. Ideas lose meaning.

Digital content writing is no exception. It doesn’t matter how compelling your message is, if it doesn’t provide a valuable return on the user’s time it won’t be read.

Structure Trends

Responsive sites that scale to mobile need to be written with the mobile screen in mind; your work has to make sense and convey message + value no matter what platform it’s read on.

Additionally, as people access the mobile web more and more their sense of readability and rhythm changes for all platforms. Think a user who is used to reading ultra short form on their mobile wants to read a 200 word paragraph on their desktop? Think again.

Recap:

  • Responsive site design and multi-device web use has altered content requirements.
  • Every form of writing has established structure & digital content is no exception.
  • To ensure copy is streamlined and works on all devices when writing for responsive sites, write for mobile.
  • As always, rules can be broken but are best bent after complete understanding is attained.

Below are tips to serve as a guideline for modern digital content writing. Your language, voice and all the call-to-actions in the world rely on these structure basics to be as effective as possible.

Headlines: Your Structural Foundation

Proper use of headlines is crucial. People aren’t always going to be relaxed when accessing your content. Headlines guide the user, allowing them to select what text is important to them and what text they can skip.

Headlines also help users keep track of what they have read, making it easier to return to a page after a break and find their place.

Modern Short Form

Ultra short form copy is key because every word counts. You have 90-110 words per screen on most mobile phones, so try to keep your paragraphs at around 50 words. Readers will have to scroll, and scrolling blocks of information rather than a long wall of text provides an easier read.

Aside from screen size, people on the move are checking the web for short periods of time and tend to scan, not fully read content. This means your text has to be more than readable – it has to make sense to those who are merely skimming it.

A cloze test can help you adjust important copy to ensure maximum readability. This term relates to deleting words and testing to see if the copy remains readable. If the context is still absorbed you’re on your way to writing effectively for all types of readers.

Reading comprehension relies on good copy. Make sure you stick to mobile-friendly paragraphs and your message has the utmost clarity.

Rhythm Within Paragraphs

Ultra short form copy. It doesn’t mean every sentence has to be short. In fact, you MUST play with the flow of your content to keep it interesting. Worth reading. Valuable. Remember, being monotonous is boring. Being boring gets your text skimmed or, even worse, skipped!

Use sentences of varied sizes to create and break up your rhythm. Your copy has to be short, readable and, of course, enjoyable.

Full Screen Rhythm

The need for a good flow applies to overall structure as well. Using images and bullet-point lists goes far in creating a compelling flow of content. It also serves as an additional way for users to keep track of where they were on the page.

Contextual rhythm is also important. If you’re spending too much time on a particular facet of the page’s information, defer it to another page. UX mindfulness is our responsibility as writers, too. The intake of information is part of the experience. Experience and usability drive conversion.

Summary

Structural elements of effective digital copy include:

  • Clear, Compelling Headlines.
  • Short, rhythmic paragraphs to hold interest.
  • Writing that can be read in situations where attention may be diverted.
  • Images and bullet points to break up large amounts of text.
  • Deferring content when it deserves its own page.

Use these tips as a starting point and ensure the copy you write is read by your audience. For a quick sense of how your text will look on a mobile, make a document that is around 11cm wide and use a 14-16 point font.

Remember, good UX is all about guiding the user, and the structure of digital content is all about proper UX. Writers must play their role in providing the user with the best experience possible or the whole digital endeavour will suffer.