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Dale Carnegie provided, albeit unknowingly, an important lesson for Web writing long before we were born. In his classic 1936 book How To Win Friends and Influence People, he titled one chapter A Simple Way To Make A Good First Impression. His advice, put simply: Smile. Actions speak louder than words and a smile says: “I like you. You make me happy. I am glad to see you,” Carnegie wrote.

Think about it. Let’s say you’re one of the first people to arrive at a cocktail party. Two people who are otherwise fairly similar look up as you enter. One smiles at you; the other offers a blank expression. Who are you more likely to talk to? And when you’re talking with someone on the phone, you can sometimes tell if they’re smiling on the other end. Doesn’t that make you feel better than if they sound frustrated or unenthusiastic?

I always preach the importance of writing Web pages in conversational, not institutional, style. For the most part, pages should read like a friendly chat, not a stern lecture. Consider the differences:

Institutional:

At Random University, students pursue rigorous curricula that construct relevant components of knowledge. The college’s mission statement is to use time-honored pedagogy, best practices and benchmarks to provide intellectual growth and authentic learning.

Conversational:

All of our 8,000 students could tell you interesting stories. Read their blogs, watch their videos or follow their Twitter streams to learn about just some of our bright community members. … You can make friends and enjoy the activities available in our more than 150 student organizations and 24 sports. But seeing is believing. Schedule a visit to start building your success story today!

OK, perhaps extreme examples, but note how the latter uses compact sentences, lively verbs and positive words to read as if the Web page itself is smiling and enthusiastic. It’s also about the reader (you) NOT the institution. When we visit pages that make us feel welcome, engaged and excited, we’re more likely to stay for a while. If that’s what you want, why not write with a smile?

3 Comments

Filed under Web, writing

3 responses to “: )

  1. This post will be flying around the SUNY New Paltz campus today. #justsayin🙂

    I don’t think they’re really extreme examples – I think you clearly illustrate What to Do and What Not to Do. Awesome.

  2. insidetimshead

    RACHEL: Glad you enjoyed and passed it on. On the best days, creating Web copy is about making friends.

  3. Pingback: finding great food, service and spectacle. « InsideTimsHead

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