Copywriting Tip: Don't use semicolons

As a rule, the copy on your Website should be straightforward, compelling and informative. Keeping things simple provides prospective clients with the least amount of obstacles to get from your headline to your call-to-action.

As an example, let's take a closer look at the often misunderstood semicolon.

Basically, semicolons are used to connect two or more independent clauses in a way that shows a closer relationship than a period. They serve a specific purpose in writing, but you may have noticed that they're not used very often anymore, especially in writing that is meant for a wide audience like newspapers.

Most journalists avoid using semicolons because the average reader doesn't completely understand their function. Writing for the Web is very similar in that it's about appealing to a wide audience.

If you want to sell your product or service, your copy needs to make sense to the prospects who read it. So even if you know how semicolons work, you risk turning off a portion of your audience by using them.

Semicolons are almost never necessary. You can easily replace them with a dash or a period and lose none of the meaning. They have fallen by the wayside in most online writing, and it's not your job to pick them up and dust them off---not on your Website anyway. They are best saved for creative fiction or articles in The New Yorker.

The job of Web copy---and all marketing copy, for that matter---is to sell your product or service. So anything that will keep you from achieving that goal should be removed.

The same goes for big words, long sentences and huge blocks of text. People don't read copy like they read an article or a book. They're not in it for the experience of reading complex, deeply meaningful prose. They're in it to make a purchasing decision based on the information you provide and the emotions you evoke.

By keeping your copy simple and your message compelling, you're chances of persuading a prospect to fill out your contact form, or request a quote, or pick up the phone and call are greatly improved.

So when you're crafting copy for your Website or writing for your business blog, just remember to old sales adage---K.I.S.S. or, more specifically, "Keep It Simple, Stupid."

Written by Jackson Armstrong on May 11th, 2012

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