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How to edit your B2B website copy

AKA, the joy of killing your darlings




Good writing is murder, isn't it? You toil over the perfect sentence only for a colleague to read it and complain that they don't get it.


They say it's unclear, convoluted, or sounds ‘odd’. Whatever the criticism, the end result is the same: your pride is wounded and your brilliance as a writer beaten back into submission.


This, my friends, is a clear sign that you must kill your darlings.

 

Looking for B2B copywriting services rather than a copywriting and editing guide? No problem – feel free to skip the article and check out website copywriting services instead.

 

Copywriting and editing: the toughest piece of advice


No, I'm not suggesting you take out your frustration on your colleagues or any other hapless reader.


The advice for writers to 'kill your darlings' has been attributed to many authors over the years, from Stephen King to William Faulkner. It’s a crucial step in the copywriting and editing process.


What exactly is a darling?


A darling is something that sounds lovely, gives you a sense of irrational fondness for it, and makes you feel good when writing it, but which doesn't serve the piece or your reader. It could be:

  • Flowery language

  • Long, windy-winding sentences that trail on and on, and traipse all around the mulberry bush, past the school and the village green, all without saying very much at all...

  • Superfluous detail

  • Tangents that bear no relevance and don't advance the writing at all

  • Puffery, jargon, or smart-arsey commentary


A darling is something that sounds lovely but which doesn’t say very much of substance.

Why must the darlings die?


As someone who loves a tangent, I've wept that question into my keyboard many a time. But ooops, there I go with my darlings.


Darlings are a distraction. They're about you, not your reader. And if you're writing anything, that's not particularly helpful. It's especially unhelpful when you're writing copy.


The whole point of copywriting is to move your reader in a pre-determined direction. Anything that impedes the mission needs to be jettisoned ASAP.


Darlings are a distraction, which is not particularly helpful when you’re writing copy.

Tips for identifying your darlings


When editing your copy, use the below to help you discern what's a darling and what's not.

  • So what? Read your suspected darling then ask the question, 'So what?' If you can't come up with a decent answer, you've likely got a darling on your hands.

  • What use does this provide to the reader? Depending on what you're working on, you might need to phrase the question differently: ‘Does this help the reader?’ or ‘Will the reader know what to do next?’ for example. Again, if your answer is not watertight, your darling probably needs culling, or rewriting at least.

  • What do you feel when you read it? If a sense of pride is creeping in, ask yourself if it's because a) you've written a helpful, concise, piece; or, b) because it just sounds so darned lovely. It's option B? You know what to do...


Why does web copy need to be easy to read?


One place that certainly doesn’t need any darlings, is your website. Attention spans are short. Your prospects are busy. Your web copy needs to be easy to read so that it engages the readers’ attention. You only have a few precious seconds. Show them they’ve landed in the right place with to-the-point, plain English. Clarity, precision and relevance will help you communicate more effectively than darlings.


Your website copy needs to be easy to read to engage readers’ short attention spans.

Copywriting and editing: a bonus resource


If you don’t feel confident to edit your work and slay those darlings, fear not! I have a free resource that can help. My website copywriting checklist takes the pain out of editing. With a series of Yes/No questions, it’ll help you hone your words, stick with what’s important and yes, kill those darlings. I hope you find it useful.


Download the checklist below, totally free.



To (let) be or not to be, that is the question


Whether you decide to kill each and every one of your darlings, or let the odd one persist, is entirely up to you. If you're compromising on clarity, directness or relevance, they need to go. If they're adding a little humour or personality, keeping them would probably not be the end of the world.


There we have it! A manual for killing your darlings. More conservatively known as a 'how-to guide to edit your B2B website copy.' Whichever title you prefer, may it serve you well. And don't forget, the pen is mightier than the sword.


P.S. No darlings were harmed in the making of this post.