Website Copywriting Tips from Warren Buffett

typing veerby Carolyn Frith

If your website copywriting was as engaging as Warren Buffett’s communications, do you think your website’s visitors might hang out longer on your website?  What are his communication secrets? How can you steep your website copywriting in them and make it more magnetic?

To find out, read on.

Website Copywriting: Keep it Simple

In Warren Buffett’s preface for “A Plain English Handbook: How to create clear SEC disclosure documents” he says the following.

“Too often, I’ve been unable to decipher just what is being said or, worse yet, had to conclude that nothing was being said. If corporate lawyers and their clients follow the advice in this handbook, my life is going to become much easier.”

Keep it simple!

That’s a website copywriter’s goal.  We translate corporate-speak into easy-to-understand, everyday language.  And sometimes, when we present our translations, clients are baffled because they don’t think it sounds “business-like”.

Copywriters write so people will read. And people like everything to be as easy as possible, including reading.

So after a copywriter is finished, the pretences are gone, corporate speak is crushed, and it’s … easy to read. reading website copywriting

Think about it.

If you had to choose between reading in English or Greek, what would you go for? Unless you’re Greek, you’d probably choose English because you can coast right through it.  No dictionaries needed!

When webmasters post copy that’s a jumble of corporate-speak, spiced with mystifying acronyms, it’s almost like asking their readers to read Greek.

Website visitors end up stumbling over word obstacles, get lost in a maze of never-ending sentences, and very quickly succumb to their short attention spans.

Good bye. They’re scurrying off to another website.

When you bombard the reader with taxing words and knotty sentences it does not boost your credibility. Buffett adds “Write as this handbook instructs you and you will be amazed at how much smarter your readers will think you have become.”  He contends that if you write so it’s easy for people to read, they’ll actually think you’re smarter!

That’s fair.  Making complex things easy to understand takes a special skill.

The Plain English Guide to Website Copywriting

Some of the guide’s points that you can use for engaging website copywriting include:

1. “A plain English document uses words economically.  Its sentence structure is tight.”

After writing your draft, cut the fat. Try to slash every sixth word.

That sounds extreme and might not be possible, but you’ll be surprised how many words are just lolling about, taking up space.

Whack them.

2. “Knowing your audience is the most important step in assuring that your document is understandable.”

Create a persona of the person you’re talking to—their demographics, the language they understand, and what’s distracting them as they try to read your copy. Pin a picture of your reader to your monitor and pretend you’re talking to them as you write.

3. “Use active voice.”

The bonus using active voice is it’s easier to abide by rule #1.  That’s because passive voice uses words extravagantly.  For example:

Passive voice: This website copy was written by Carolyn Frith.

Active voice: Carolyn Frith wrote this website copy.

4. “Try personal pronouns.”

This is a pillar of good website copywriting. Instead casting a wide net and talking to everyone, you talk directly to one reader. Your copywriting becomes conversational and more likely to capture the reader’s attention.

5. “Bring abstractions down to earth.”

If you read about ‘assets’ in a financial document, your eyes might glaze over.  But if someone mentions ‘a share of Google’s common stock,’ you can relate to it better, and it grabs your attention because it’s more concrete.

Warren Buffett is a master of bringing abstract concepts down to earth.  In addition to being specific, as in the previous example, he uses analogies, stories and metaphors that make his words dance in your mind.

badminton analogy For example, Buffett uses both metaphors and a simile to describe how investors felt after the economic meltdown in 2008: “By year-end, investors of all stripes were bloodied and confused, much as if they were small birds that had strayed into a badminton game.”

As I watched my 401K melt down, that’s certainly how I felt.

He tops it off with a metaphor to describe the government’s reaction: “In poker terms, the Treasury and the Fed have gone ‘all in.’ Economic medicine that was previously meted out by the cupful has recently been dispensed by the barrel.”

No jargon.  No corporate-speak.  Just plain English that conjures up unforgettable images that communicate.

Buffett also uses persuasive analogies.

“Why potential buyers even look at projections prepared by sellers baffles me. Charlie and I never give them a glance, but instead keep in mind the story of the man with an ailing horse. Visiting the vet, he said: “Can you help me? Sometimes my horse walks just fine and sometimes he limps.” The vet’s reply was pointed: “No problem — when he’s walking fine, sell him.” The seller of a business practically always knows far more about it than the buyer and also picks the time of sale — a time when the business is likely to be walking just fine.” – Warren Buffett

So start practicing Warren Buffett’s techniques in your website copywriting, lure your readers in, grab them by the eyeballs and hold onto them!

For help with website copywriting and transforming your website into an Internet marketing machine, call 610-340-0622 begin or contact us online.





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