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Want Site; Can't Write!

By Bob McElwain

While good writing skills help build and sustain a web site, there are ways to work around any lack you may have. Right up top, let's wipe out one myth that simply does not apply.

If you are serious about putting together a web site, you have visited many. If you have less than great writing skills, you may have found yourself saying, "Heck, I can't write like that!" So forget it? Not really.

There is a vast array of tasks to be accomplished in putting together a web site. While writing skills are very helpful, other skills you have may far outweigh any weakness in your writing.

There are two main areas in which writing is needed: Creation of web page content and responding to email. Let's start with the pages on your site.

The content of a web page is far more important than the writing skills required to put it together. Think of sites you have seen that you liked. Excepting those providing information, there may not be much text on any page. You can often get by with as few as 400 words. The point here is you do not need to write a book. You only need to provide what is needed to sell your product or service.

“ The key is to write as you would speak to a visitor to your shop or office. ”

The key is to write as you would speak to a visitor to your shop or office. Avoid cute and clever and avoid formal. Write as you speak. Make your pitch as clearly and briefly as possible. Then show your work to a friend and ask for suggestions. Rewrite as necessary, and seek further criticism. You can buy this sort of service, but costs can add up. If you need lots of help, you may be able to barter for someone's writing and editing skills.

Email will prove to be the greatest challenge, for it needs to be answered promptly and completely. Most of your new business relationships will begin with email. And they will end there, unless you handle it well. Yet the friend who helped in building your web pages is not likely to be standing at your shoulder as you reply. So what to do.

Boilerplate will solve most of your problems. By boilerplate, I mean content you write prior to receiving any messages at all. You know a lot about your product. Sit down and figure what questions people are likely to ask. Then write good answers for each one, take them to your friend, and rework them as necessary. If you load them into a text file, you can use something as simple as Notepad to load the file, then copy what you need and paste it into your reply. While some editing will be necessary to make your pre-written answer fit the way the question was asked, you can manage this. And it gets easier as you go along.

But what about a question you did not anticipate? If you do not feel up to answering it from scratch, write what you feel is a good answer, share it with your friend, add it to your list of boilerplate, and then reply.

As suggested, Notepad or Wordpad work fine, as does any text editor. I prefer ClipMate: http://www.thornsoft.com It's twenty bucks, but I find it invaluable. You can copy as many items of text into it as you please, assign whatever descriptive title seems best, then select any item by its title, and paste the content into your message. A great time saver, for you do not have to search through a text file.

There is a lot of work in this approach. You will find yourself spending much more time with your writing than most webmasters do. But regardless of your present skills level, you will be surprised at how quickly they improve. Not right at first, for getting started is tough. But once you get the hang of it, you will find it easier every day. In time, your file of boilerplate will end up being simplified to addresses, obscure references, and such, that you occasionally want to share with your customers, for you will be writing as you would speak to them face to face.

Bob McElwain, author of "Your Path To Success." How to build ANY business you want, just the way you want it, with only pocket money. http://sitetipsandtricks.com/opts/mcb.html Get ANSWERS. Subscribe to "STAT News" now! join-stat@lyris.dundee.net