The Trap of Internal Writing - or - How Not to Be a One-Note Wonder

You may have never heard the term Internal Writing, but you've probably encountered it. The internet is lousy with sites that treat their introductory paragraph like they are meeting you for the first time at a networking mixer, as seen here in Exhibit A:

Hi! Welcome to A Baking Company's website! My mom started this bakery in Cincinatti in 1973. We make a delicious variety of pastries and baked goods for any occasion, using only the finest organic ingredients. We bake custom cakes for special occasions, including flourless chocolate, red velvet, and lemon cream. We are located at 123 Yum Street, and are open Monday through Friday from 7am to 8pm.

If your website speaks about your business or organization from your own perspective—this is who I am, this is what I do—it's suffering from Internal Writing. It's a lot more persuasive to write from the user's perspective, and frame what you offer as the solution they seek.

When I read internal writing, I hear a singer in my head stuck on one note: ME ME ME ME ME. But let's be honest: the user doesn't care about you! She's showing up at your site with her own priorities and goals, and hoping what you offer will help her reach them.

Think of it this way: the website user doesn't experience your content like a conversation, he experiences it like a store. Nobody walks into a store wondering who started it and why—the first thing they do is look around and see if there's anything there they like.  If there is (mmmm, flourless chocolate cake), they might dig deeper to find out more, and eventually want to know who started this palace of deliciousness and why. But don't lead with that.

In essence, don't tell your users about yourself and leave it to them to figure out if your product or service is right for them. Tell them why it is right for them in the first place. Instead of ME ME ME your copy should say YOU YOU YOU. As in, “Bring some zest to the party with our lemon cream cake” or “The best celebration requires the best ingredients: 100% of our cakes are 100% organic”. Make it relevant. Don't talk about yourself, talk about them—and how much they're going to love your cakes.

Torrey Douglass