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This post is sponsored and written by Penn State Web Conference 2015, sponsor of Higher Ed Special Edition.

Using the wrong words can easily send users in the wrong direction or even away from your brand. Paying attention to what you say and how you say it is an important element of creating content that is easy, helpful and useful to your user and makes sure their experience goes well.

Lauren Colton, from Gravity Works Design & Development, reminded us in her session the importance of copy in the user’s experience and offered up tips and tricks to make sure your copy keeps your audience happy.

Key Takeaways

  1. Words shape the user experience.
  2. Keep testing, keep improving.
  3. Our messages are a starting point.


Shape the User Experience

Pay attention to your targeted audience. Know their location, education levels, colloquial language. Stick with simple language and avoid jargon. You want your audience to understand what you’re trying to say the first time they read it.

If you do need to use jargon or industry terms, identify and define them for your user.

Be clear and precise. Don’t clutter up your content with unnecessary words or information. May any actions you want your users to take, clear. Make sure your main point is first and don’t bury it under passive language. Be active, use verbs.

Pro tip: Add “by zombies” to the end of your sentence. If your sentence still makes sense, it’s written in passive tense.

Include visual aids when able. Draw attention to the most important information. Understand grammar rules and when it’s okay to break them.

Testing and Improving

When reviewing your copy, make sure to look at “how” your users are interacting with your content and “why” they’ve chosen that path. What can be added or taken away from your copy? And don’t forget: You can get input internally but make sure to always, always test with your audience.

Ask yourself context questions. What would you mom think if she heard you say this? Would you stop in a parking lot to hear the rest of this message? Try testing your copy by having your users read parts of it out loud. Do they stumble over certain parts? How can you fix that?

The Starting Point

Your copy is just a part of your organization’s larger plan, strategy, goals. Make sure to fit within those guidelines. Your copy is not the last word. Be always prepared to change.


Article Author

Erin Supinka

Host of Higher Ed Special Edition
Social Media Manager, Dartmouth College

Erin is social media manager at Dartmouth College and contributing editor of the Higher Ed Live Blog. Erin holds a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Rochester Institute of Technology. Connect with Erin on twitter, @erinsupinka.