Top Editing Tip: Emphasis Must Be Selective
it comes to marketing—especially on the web—there are often no
second chances. You
either capture your visitor the first time around, or you don’t.
The hard fact is—if you don’t
grab their attention
with your absolutely
stellar content, it’s highly doubtful they’ll come back for
a second look.
Unless you’re a must-have site (such as the IRS), what this
means is that you really have to nail
your messaging with
carefully crafted writing and editing—and one of the most
important ways to do this is to become very selective in how you
present your content visually.
You only want to run with those elements that are vitally
important to getting your
core message across.
This is where “selective emphasis” comes in.
You cannot emphasize everything, or you will have
So, resist the urge to crank up the “volume” on everything,
since this is sure to annoy your visitors—and confuse them at
the same time.
Much web research has been devoted to this “volume” issue.
It’s been well-documented that blatant visual
elements—whether they are text or images—are automatically tuned
out by most people.
This research, in fact, is where the term “banner blindness”
originated (now it’s called “ad blindness”).
What you want to do in your writing and editing, then, is
emphasize so that you
focus attention only on your site’s key elements, de-emphasizing
The tactical elements you’ll employ to emphasize your text
Font sizes and font families—for headlines and sub-heads,
Font options—bolding, underlining, italics, capitalization,
The screen space amount that is devoted to any given item
Relevant images, such as “real” people or specific product
Visual “separators,” such as tables or horizontal or
“White space” and “visual isolation” for focusing on
Background images or color blocks
Links and buttons
Special shapes, sizes, visual styles, and effects—such as
borders, drop-shadows, and beveling (which are often used
for call-to-action buttons, for instance)
Emphasis also involves
yourself how legible your site is—how difficult or easy is it to
read your text?
Since most people’s web experiences are still based on the
reading of text, and this is still recognized as the hands-down
superior method of getting your message across—AND
most people are in a major-league hurry to “get on with it,”
let’s spend some time on the issue of website legibility.
You can save yourself an enormous amount of grief by simply
conforming to conventional copywriting legibility guidelines,
which include the following:
For most body text, 10-12 point fonts are best.
Anything larger or smaller than that reduces reading
speed. If you are
targeting an older audience, think about increasing the font
size and also set the line spacing so that you have sufficient
space between lines.
“Sans Serif” fonts like Verdana, Arial, or Tahoma work
best. Avoid using
“Serif” fonts, which have small lines at the end of the
characters, such as Century, Bookman Old Style, or Times New
fonts are harder to read on most monitors because the screen
resolutions are much lower than for printed materials.
Don’t use a wide range of font sizes, colors, or styles.
Too much change is confusing to the eye and can make
reading difficult—the last thing you want!
“Justification” spreads the text out to create lines of
equal length, giving your text a box-like look.
It’s also a boring, put-me-to-sleep look.
So, instead, use left-justified text because it has been
proven that when lines end in varying lengths, people increase
their reading comprehension and speed.
Avoid using underlines in regular text.
Conventional internet practice dictates that underlines
only be used for hyperlinks.
To add emphasis to text, consider other ways of going
about it, such as bolding, italics, a different text color, or a
different size font.
Legibility is increased with a high contrast between the
text and the background.
Reflected light sources such as monitors are easier to
read with black or dark text on a white or light background.
This has to do with contrast.
Normal web convention for body text is a white
enhance legibility, header and navigation background colors also
need to be fairly light.
In the same vein, dark backgrounds with light text colors
are difficult to read and should be used sparingly, if at all.
The accepted internet standard for link text prior to a
link’s being activated is blue, with the blue text underlined to
indicate that it is a link.
The standard color for a link once it has been activated
is purple. It’s
best to leave these in this default mode, and then be sure you
don’t use these exact colors for any other text on your site.
Publishers of all kinds have known for years that text in
all-capital letters is more difficult to read.
That’s why you don’t see newspaper headlines in all-caps.
In addition, there are two more web copywriting elements that
fall into the category of “selective emphasis.”
These are color and page
discuss them both.
As we all know, color affects mood.
Calm colors are soothing.
Loud, highly contrasting or jarring colors are exciting.
So, you need to look at color as a powerful emotional
element in your website.
What mood or emotion do you want to create?
The way you use colors—and which colors you select—depends
entirely upon how and what you’re selling.
Because people react emotionally and on a gut level to
colors, they’re huge motivators in and of themselves.
Select them carefully, and they’ll help you convert your
visitors into customers, but don’t fall into the trap of using
colors ornamentally—they’ll only prove distracting if you do.
Page layout sounds dull, dull, dull—but the success of your
carefully-constructed writing depends in large part upon your
layout, as odd as that may seem.
It is, in fact, an over-arching design element to which
you will want to give a great deal of thought because it not
only affects the visual impact of all of your pages—it pulls
together and makes cohesive the theme of your entire website.
Page layout should be as clear and uncluttered as possible.
This entails using enough “white space” to rest the eyes.
This, in turn, will assist in emphasizing your core
Your page layout should also be coherent throughout the site.
A jumble of differing layouts can create unnecessary
confusion—and a corresponding drop-off in visitor interest.
So, again, what we are talking about here is
This is editing, editing, editing—attention to detail to
Handle it well, and you will find yourself richly rewarded!
Denver Business Editor | Boulder Business Editor