It's not just your workspace and your mind you need to declutter to get the best results. Your pages need to be superfluous furniture free too.
Copywriters get taught from juniors that you should ditch all superfluous words.
Kill your darlings.
But digital meant that copywriters felt compelled to fill the white space.
It meant the legal eagles, product managers, marketing managers, designers and yes, even copywriters got excited about the amount of the space available.
"Well, we should fully explain the inner workings of a flux capacitor on the product page"
"Wouldn't it be good if we can put in cross sales messages here?"
"Hey, why don't we add a widget that makes the tea."
As there's more space and the more need for words - for example, every webpage needs an H1 and an H2 title - it means approvers want to add bits here and there because they can.
One role a copywriter must play is making sure these people don't mess up the page with their bullshit. These are my golden rules for making sure your copywriting house is in order:
- I immediately veto the use of the asterisks on the page. Not only does it look amateur and cheap, but it also looks untrustworthy.
- Absolutely no small print on banners or signposting elements, a clickable "terms apply" will suffice.
- Use bullets and sub-titles to break up blocks of copy - no one is going to read an essay.
- Keep titles as short as possible - long titles on a mobile view suck!
- Make sure promo modules, cross/up-sell elements and related links relevant to the page - if not, don't add it.
- Limit use of pop-ups, PPC, display ads - they make a page heavy and they're annoying (sorry, marketing).
- Consider all other content, like imagery, gifs, videos, etc. These add to page weight, slowing the experience down.
- No superscript - I don't care about your registered trademarks or copyright symbols, it looks crap. And I certainly don't care for th and nd on dates.
- Copywriters love punctuation, but sometimes it's not needed - for example, at the end of titles or bulleted lists. My rule of thumb is if it doesn't have punctuation within the sentence, then it doesn't need a full stop.
- Think about fonts and types, avoid using lots of different ones in lots of different sizes with lots of underlining, bold and italic. It hurts my eyes.
Getting rid of unnecessary page furniture instantly brings a new feel to a page. Sounds crazy, but it does make a page feel lighter and airy to a reader. For a copywriter (and anyone in the customer experience/creative/production teams), white space is your friend.