Last year I wrote Help files for a web application that had some really annoying quirks.
For example, users had to enter certain dollar amounts with a thousands comma, or maybe it was without a comma — I don’t recall now. If the user did it the wrong way the application would come back with one of those awful error messages that doesn’t explain the problem. It would say
Forbidden data or some such nonsense.
The application itself was beyond my control. All I could do was write an appropriate entry in the Help file.
Of course the programmers should have built the application to handle users including or omitting commas. Even so, a nice bit of ‘microcopy’ could have helped enormously, as Joshua Porter explains:
I ended up adding the copy “Be sure to enter the billing address associated with your credit card” at the top of the form. And just like that, the errors went away. It was clear the right copy meant I didn’t have to worry about that problem anymore, thus saving support time and increasing revenue on the improved conversion.
Ironically, the smallest bits of copy, microcopy, can have the biggest impact.
Microcopy is small yet powerful copy. It’s fast, light, and deadly. It’s a short sentence, a phrase, a few words. A single word. It’s the small copy that has the biggest impact. Don’t judge it on its size …judge it on its effectiveness.
[Via : Writing Microcopy – Bokardo.]
In the same vein is the power of choosing the best wording in the first place, as alex.moskalyuk explains:
Ads quoting negative behavior en masse reinforces negative behavior. Petrified Forest National Park A/B tested two versions of a sign imploring people not to steal pieces of petrified forest from the park. One mentioned large amounts of petrified forest taken away on an annual basis, the other one simply asked the visitors not to remove petrified wood. The first one actually tripled the theft ratio as it showed stealing petrified wood as something commonplace.
Choose your words carefully.
It may be easier to have a professional do your writing for you: I specialise in instructional writing, such as Help files, tutorials, and writing destined for the web. Find out how I can help you.