Translators! Does your website copy sound like everybody else's?
In 6 Elements of Outstanding Homepage Design (Inbound Marketing Blog), Brittney Ervin writes:
Ideally, your homepage needs to do three things:
- Introduce and give visitors a clear sense of your brand
- Provide visitors with clear paths to other pages on your site
- Be memorable (unique design, a catchy logo, or an overall appealing look)
6 Elements of Outstanding Homepage Design by Brittney Ervin
While the article goes on to discuss the layout, the colors, and the fonts, the bit that jumps out at me is this: “give visitors a clear sense of your brand.”
Yes, thinking about yourself as a “brand” might seem unsavory, but what if we refashion this as “give visitors a clear sense of who you are and what you stand for”?
And yet, there are so many websites that use the same words to describe the same services, the same words to describe the same benefits, the same words to describe the same passions.
What if we didn’t hide behind the “everybody says that” excuses and tried to show our personality (and when I say “we,” I include myself)?
Hillary Weiss is a “content crafter for profoundly rad brands with something real to say”.
Erica Lee Strauss does it her way:
Just like a stylist can help you curate gorgeous ensembles that reflect who you truly are so you can step out into the world as a totally-polished-but-still-authentic version of you, I’m an expert at helping entrepreneurs communicate who they are, what they do and the immense value they bring to the table – in the sexiest, sauciest package possible.
Laura Belgray does it her way:
Or maybe you’ll like this copy more:
“But those are copywriters!”
Yes, those are people who work with words for a living. Actually, so are translators and interpreters. And your website is the last place where you want to be melting into the background.
There are people out there who do sound different. I emailed them just to say hi, because:
But … what should I do?
First of all, do not despair. According to a study published by The Writer in 2016, even Fortune 10-0 companies have brand voice troubles:
The Writer consultancy released key findings today from a new study of Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. revealing that more than 80% of the businesses surveyed have no formal tone of voice (or what some call “verbal identity”), and 94% of these have no intention of creating one.
And yet, 80% of early adopters of tone of voice say it’s just as – or more – important than their brand’s visual identity.
New Study by The Writer Says “Tone of Voice” Overlooked and Underused by Most U.S. Companies, published on Business Wire
5 Easy Steps to Define and Use Your Brand Voice by Erica Heald on the Content Marketing Institute’s website. It is a simple table, and unless you plan to outsource your content, you don’t need to fill out the last two columns, unless you want to.
Distilled has a great comprehensive article on the same topic.
It is true that some people might not like references to glitter and fashion and little black dresses (like me), some people will be shocked that anyone would write like Ash Ambridge, who starts her emails with “Yo! It’s Ash!”. Too much? Perhaps. Memorable? Yes.
Regardless of what feels right to you, being a shy violet online is the worst strategy.
This is what Kira Hug says:
I challenged myself to no longer lurk on the sidelines as a wallflower and instead jump into the party.
I guess I finally realized, after 32 years, that no one will choose you.
You must choose yourself.
Either way, when you find your voice, you will most likely use it, instead of being indecisive or even apologetic about being online. And that’s a good thing.
You can send your message with uncertainty trembling in your voice, or you can say it with confidence. If you’re ending your messaging with question marks, using terms such as “perhaps,” “maybe,” “interested?” and “want to?”, then most likely you have some opportunity to be a bit more authoritative. Who knows, maybe there is a bit more room for telling people what to do next in the world of conversion optimization.
Do I need to start dropping f-bombs in my copy now? Really?
As you might have noticed, I like really big voices. You don’t have to like them.
In fact, not all sectors and businesses need a casual and jokey tone of voice. According to the research conducted by Nielsen Norman Group,
A playful tone for a serious industry has the potential of creating pleasant surprise and helping a company stand out from its competitors. However, in this situation, the friendliness and irreverence actually undermined users’ perceptions of trustworthiness and professionalism.
The Impact of Tone of Voice on Users’ Brand Perception (Nielsen Norman Group UX research), Nielsen Norman Group
On the other hand, being too formal and corporate speak-y will make your brand “intimidating.”
Over to you: would your copy pass the website blind test? Or did you decide that a professional translator's website should be serious and to the point?
Do you find the prospect of sounding human scary?
Ekaterina Howard is a bilingual copywriter, the current Administrator of the ATA’s Slavic Languages Division, and a Copy School Graduate. She believes that both freelance translators and interpreters and T&I companies can do better than “great quality at a reasonable price” and blogs about the ways in which they can make their copy more relevant and more persuasive.