Grammar Gumbo Anyone? Why Content Truly is King!
You’ve stepped out for a bite, and you’ve got your heart set on some yummy salad and pasta at the new bistro that just opened down the street. It’s a busy night, the cooks are new, and somehow the salad gets all mixed up in the pasta. There’s meat sauce all over the romaine, and croutons are floating around in the Bolognese. “So what awreddy?” your waiter says. “You ordered salad and pasta. Enn you gottit. Now pay da bill.” You cross this bistro off your list.
Nobody would do this, right? But in fact, in the wonderful world of business writing, it happens all the time. Business prose is too often uninteresting, unappetizing, full of spelling and grammatical errors, and all mixed up. In short, it’s a big stewy mess.
When it comes to information, there’s always a pattern. Ideas naturally fall into categories, like “What do you do? How do you do it? Who do you do it for? How does it work? Why buy from you? Why is it good for your clients?” It’s the job of the professional writer to develop the unique questions that are pertinent to your business, and, in the course of asking and answering questions like this, additional relevant and important material is often uncovered. Developing patterns for the information structure, and then delivering the information in an organized manner, helps the reader enormously to quickly grasp what the heck you’re talking about.
This process of discovering and organizing patterns of information becomes even more important when you’re writing for the web.
Best practices for web writing include the adage of “one concept per page”. Readers don’t read on the web, they skim, and it’s easier to grasp and digest (there’s that salad and pasta again) discrete, well-organized and bite-sized chunks of information than stuff that’s all mixed up. When readers get confused, they leave, and they might not come back.
In addition to overall patterns, there’s always a hierarchy of information, too. Some information is vital. Some is important but less so. Some is interesting but not important. And some stuff is just, well, disposable. It’s the job of the professional writer to sort it all out and organize it in a way that makes sense and explains your business in the best possible way.
Web design lends itself extremely well to information hierarchy. Vital information appears in the main body, less important stuff is relegated to sidebars, and interesting stuff might end up being accessed through a link. In the best of design, content and visual organization are inextricably connected—thinking about design means thinking about content, and vice versa. That’s why it is such an excellent idea to include the professional content developer (read, “Writer”) early in the project, because the structural design and the content can be developed in tandem.
The truth of the matter is, you can have a gorgeous web site, you can have a tricked-out logo, and you can have SEO that is leading all the right potential buyers to you. But when they get there, if your prose is poor, it’s going to reflect badly on your business. Discovering the pattern and sorting the stuff out into bundles, sifting through for the gems, discarding the less important bits, and making you shine—this is stuff that professional writers do all the time.