Online copy: can you do it yourself?

Whether it’s world or local news, social media posts or text on a company blog page, the vast majority of reading and writing is now performed online. You can promote your own business by quickly seting up blogs and social media platforms, but do you have to you pay someone to do this or can you do it yourself?

You may think writing is only for talented, creative individuals who do it for a living, but this is far from true. Most small business owners can write decent copy providing they follow some basic guidelines. None of these are mandatory, but they provide a good foundation to help get your point across in a structured, professional manner.

Find out who you are writing for and grab their attention
First of all you need to establish your target audience. Is it a general interest piece aimed at a wide audience or focused on a specific sector and subject? Is your audience well informed or will you have to lead them carefully through the article and support their lack of knowledge?

With the vast amount of internet content available, web viewers are far from patient. Right at the start of the piece, give them a brief outline of what you want to say but try to capture their attention with some powerful, relevant points.

Business people, in particular, have little time to sift carefully through a piece, so don’t waste time and get to the point. Remember, if the first few sentences don’t interest them, you’ve probably lost them for good.

How should I write it?

  • First of all, keep it simple and make it easy for your audience to skim it, especially if businesses are your targeted readership.
  • Bullets and lists will help this, as well as pull-quotes highlighting certain points by using a distinctively different formatting style.
  • Make sure your chosen subject is something your audience will be interested in and, if possible, directly relates to your business.
  • Engage with the audience and write clearly in a way they understand but does not patronise.
  • Keep your paragraphs short, cut any unnecessary text and get to the point.
  • Your sentences should also be relatively brief or your audience will switch off before you get your point across.
  • External links should be kept to a minimum. They break up the flow and take the viewer away to another page; once there they are unlikely to return.

A picture speaks a thousand words
It is widely known that people often understand images far easier than words and supporting text with pictures helps in several ways. Images can capture the viewers attention, help explain complex subjects and add an extra level of care that helps the viewer ‘buy-in’ to the author’s copy.

For complicated subjects, infographics can really help as they display elaborate concepts in a simplified, logical manner. However, even quite simple images can keep the article alive and aid explanation.

However, if at all possible, don’t use standard, boring, stock images as this often gives a mass-produced, uncared for look. You are looking to convey a carefully crafted, thoughtful approach that reflects your business, so if you must use stock images, try and change them a little to fit better to your article (check the licensing conditions on your particular images before you do this or get advice from a graphic designer).

Create a structure
If you have hundreds of really good ideas rushing around in your head, fighting each other for prominence, structure is essential; it brings order to your writing. It may sound daunting, but it is actually quite simple to put into place. However, once created, you must stick to it.

After you have decided on your subject, the following list shows a work process that will help keep everything on track:

  1. Choose an eye-catching, relevant picture. Treat each article image almost as importantly as your home page imagery; it must reflect the content of your copy and not just be a random, irrelevant image.
  2. Create a thought-provoking first paragraph. This must capture the reader’s attention immediately so be brief; outline the article and get to the point within the first two sentences.
  3. Prioritise a list of your top ideas. Make a numbered list of importance, ranging from the most essential, important idea to relatively small, supporting facts and figures that help keep their attention.
  4. Fill in the main feature with supporting copy. Once you have established your ideas list, supplement the first idea’s title by using examples and supporting copy that will help the viewer understand your reasoning.
  5. Add images or pull-quotes. Additional imagery will help get the importance of certain aspects to your viewer, explain complex subjects and break up swathes of copy. An alternative to images is to use pull-quotes such as the example below, but don’t over do them:

    This is an example of a pull-quote. Use them to break up copy and give the viewer a place to rest but don’t add too many.

  6. Create continuity. Keep applying the above principles to all levels of your ideas as you go down the list; continue to add to each idea as you did the first, adding details and substance to each subject as you go down.
  7. Keep writing. Let the article gradually evolve until the list is complete. In effect, start using your top idea on the list and continue until you’ve completed your list.
  8. Finish with a conclusion. Viewers generally like to know that the article has finished –to stop them searching for the next page! – so to finish the piece with a definite conclusion. This is usually a short summary, with an invitation to read previous or future articles or to possibly contact you for more information.

To summarise

  • Use simple language and think of an interesting subject related to your business and that of your target audience;
  • Don’t forget to keep to the structure you’ve created;
  • Get to the point quickly and be consistent;
  • Use images and quotes to add interest;
  • Try it; you have nothing to lose!

If you need any more help regarding this or any other related subject, please contact Carl Waine at


Being Print-Aware: 3. Image Conscious

The third post in the series deals with file types and why you should create and use files in specific formats for certain tasks. As well as helping self-printers/designers, this article will hopefully help clients understand the limitations designers have to contend with when using differing file types and the restrictions these impose. 

Raster or Bit-map Images
When you take a photo on your phone or camera, the image resolution is often referred to as a certain number of megapixels and the more megapixels, the better the image quality (generally). For each image captured, there is a corresponding, finite number of pixels. This is a raster or bit-map image.

The image above, shows a typical raster image on the left and a simulation of the pixel grid (right), that also shows what would happen if the image had been enlarged from a smaller size (the image starts to break up).

These pixels – or dots – form images by arranging them in a grid. each one of which is ‘filled’ with a dot of a specific colour. When you’re looking at these images on your screen, these dots are referred to as pixels whereas in print they are still spoken of as dots (for more information, also see here).

Raster images are the most commonly used file type; they are used extensively by both web designers and photographers alike, and seen as pictures in books, magazines and other printed media everywhere.


  • They are used where a wide range of colours and gradients are required, often with subtle variations and a high level of detail
  • They offer more control when modifying in an editing program – such as Adobe Photoshop – because each pixel can be changed individually
  • They are ideal for most web images, photographs and images – including logos – that require a great deal of detail that is not possible in a vector file


  • They cannot enlarged without loss of picture quality
  • File size can be huge; very large images require powerful computers to edit them and they soon take up storage space
  • Layers sometimes have to merged to reduce the file size but the image then becomes more difficult to edit

Vector files
A vector image is formed in an entirely different way to a raster file. Rather than consisting of a finite number of pixels, a vector graphic uses a system of points, each of which has a definite position on something similar to a graph;  x and y axes co-ordinates that record positions and properties that can be specified, such as values for stroke and fill colours, thickness etc.

When a vector image is enlarged, the computer knows how to scale the co-ordinate positions, still fill with the colour specified, the stroke size etc., and creates a version where no quality is lost (see above image simulation).

With a raster image, the computer has to ‘guess’ how to make the image bigger; how to fill the ‘holes’ that enlarging creates usually leads to a loss in detail and quality.


  • Vector files can be enlarged infinitely, with no loss in quality.  This is particularly important in logos which may be used on a website to the size of a lorry or bigger.
  • Everything contained within a vector file is ‘recorded’ mathematically, so the file size is (usually) low, certainly when compared to a corresponding raster image
  • Extra layers created in a vector file can be kept rather than merged, retaining their editability.


  • They do not have the same range of customisable, special effects and features that raster files have (realistic dropped shadows, photo-realistic effects etc.) and though these can be simulated, they take a great deal longer to reproduce as a vector
  • They tend to be more used for images that incorporate restricted detail (more simplified, ‘poster’ effects) and not photographs that include detail or subtle shading

So which should you chose; raster or vector?
Generally, raster images should be used when you require an image to have a high level of detail – such as a photograph – and you’re either convinced it won’t be enlarged greatly and will accept the loss in quality if it is.

Vector images, however, should be used for graphics that require very much less detail – usually logos – that may need to be enlarged at some point, but need to retain their quality and clarity.

The vast majority of our logos, for instance, are generated as vector graphics so the client has the flexibility to use them as they need. We can still include a high level of detail within a vector file (see below) but this is quite a specialised process, so seek the help of a designer, especially if you’re looking for a high level of detail but in a vector format.


Finally, if you plan on creating a vector image yourself – and don’t have the necessary expertise to produce a highly detailed version – the design of the finished image needs to be kept as simple as possible.

For any more information on anything print or design related, please email us at or using the comments box below.