A Review of Net Words by Nick Usborne

“Nobody is paying close enough attention to the words on ecommerce sites.” Do you do any kind of online writing? Manage a web site? Run an ecommerce site? Write articles, newsletters, even send action oriented e-mails? If so, you really should read Net Words. There are no gimmicks here, but the message is an important one. For users, the Internet is all about the power of words – about connecting with other individuals, and if you improve the words on your webs sites, in your newsletters, e-mails, and customer service correspondence, you will make more sales, have more visitors, differentiate your business, and increase customer loyalty. The book is targeted at both those who do business online, and those who create copy. For those who create copy offline, the book provides a very useful primer for making that transition to the online world, which is quite different. For those looking to increase sales and improve their online businesses, the book will help you understand the importance of your copywriters. If you happen to both run a business and create online copy, the book is particularly valuable.

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Net words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy
by Nick Usborne
McGraw-Hill, 2002
ISBN: 0-07-138039-6

“Nobody is paying close enough attention to the words on ecommerce sites.” Do you do any kind of online writing? Manage a web site? Run an ecommerce site? Write articles, newsletters, even send action oriented e-mails? If so, you really should read Net Words. There are no gimmicks here, but the message is an important one. For users, the Internet is all about the power of words – about connecting with other individuals, and if you improve the words on your webs sites, in your newsletters, e-mails, and customer service correspondence, you will make more sales, have more visitors, differentiate your business, and increase customer loyalty. The book is targeted at both those who do business online, and those who create copy. For those who create copy offline, the book provides a very useful primer for making that transition to the online world, which is quite different. For those looking to increase sales and improve their online businesses, the book will help you understand the importance of your copywriters. If you happen to both run a business and create online copy, the book is particularly valuable.

With over 20 years in the advertising and marketing industry, and a myriad of advertising awards, Usborne knows what he is talking about. He also practices what he preaches. Net Words is written in clear, and easy to read language which makes its point quickly without a hint of overbearing hype. There are real, and practical examples from companies as diverse as Avis, Victoria’s Secret, and The Motley Fool, exercises, working lists, and enough ideas to stimulate the most jaded of online marketers. The book begins by outlining the considerable differences between writing for an online market and an offline one, particular the difference between on and off line consumers. Usborne looks at the history of online copywriters, and their relationship to those who create technology, and discusses both the role, and the importance of the online copywriter.

Simplicity of language does afford a great range of posibilities. You can do what you want with words. You’re not tied to a particular software platform. Words don’t care which browser your customers use. Words are the ultimate open-source code for communication. Everyone uses them, and the “language” they build evolves daily to reflect the shifts and changes in our culture. (34)

Words, particularly a unique human voice, are what distinguishes any on web site from another; any one piece of e-mail from another, especially in light of the tremendous range of choice on where a user goes, and the glut in people’s inboxes. It is what causes people to come to you in the first place, to sign up for your newsletters, to buy your products, and to return. In the Internet, great words travel quickly, and things like “tell a friend”, humour, the publishing of user’s words, and most importantly, the development of natural, honest relationships, and fresh copy are all outlined in this book. There are chapters on how and when to close a sale online, on how to use the Internet to use direct-marketing techniques, on recognising “seducible moments”, on writing e-mails that really connect with your readers, on personalising your messages, on creating real online customer service, on writing newsletters that will hold your customers’ attention, and the heart of great copywriting.

Net Words is a terrific tool for anyone who wants to use the Internet to create more effective commerce, but it is also an important book, in that it outlines what makes for great online copy. Contrary to what many online marketers may think, this is not unending hype, in-box spam, and empty promises. Usbornes’ book stresses above all, honesty, respect for your audience, creativity, insight and intuition, enthusiasm, careful construction, a deep understanding of what it is you are trying to sell, and above all, a love for words. Amen. As a Net consumer, I hope that this book gets as wide a reading as possible with an aim towards minimising intrusive and ineffective banner ads, insulting hype, standardised and impersonal spam, and sloppy copy. As an online writer and word lover, I applaud Usborne’s sentiments, particularly those about the importance of honesty and integrity, and feel inspired by his examples of good copy, and his practical suggestions for improving it.

For more information about Net Words, or to purchase a copy, visit:
Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online…

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