Copywriting for Mobile: Don’t Phone It In

Remember how a few entries ago I complained about the exhaustive use of the ~Millennial~ label? Well guess what, I’m owning it right here, right now. My name is Dani, I am a Millennial, and that means I’m on my phone, a lot. Like, pretty much all the time. Right now I’m typing with one hand and texting with the other.

Remember how a few entries ago I complained about the exhaustive use of the ~Millennial~ label? Well guess what, I’m owning it right here, right now. My name is Dani, I am a Millennial, and that means I’m on my phone, a lot. Like, pretty much all the time. Right now I’m typing with one hand and texting with the other. (I’m just kidding about that. Probably.)

The point is, we all know the stats on mobile usage. We’re all inundated every day with the knowledge of how much more people are relying on phones or tablets instead of computers, my generation being particularly notorious for it. We’ve all become intimate with the phrase “optimize for mobile”. Usually, we’re talking about websites and graphic design.

But us copywriters should be keeping mobile in mind too — words also need a little bit of adaptation to make the best use of such a small space — not to mention a space frequently used while multitasking. When you’re typing away at your clever, compelling copy, are you making considerations for mobile?

I know I personally often neglect this important detail. So, for my benefit as much as any reader’s, here are a few quick tips for writing copy that won’t lose impact just because the screen loses inches.

Short n’ Sweet
You probably knew this was coming, right? Just your basic “Mobile readers are on the go! Short attention spans! Concise is key!” and so on.

In this case, it’s not just about not wanting to lose the reader’s attention through long, rambling prose, but also simply about saving physical space on the screen and making text easier on the eyes by keeping both sentences and paragraphs short and clean. Larger blocks of text with few line breaks are notoriously difficult on a small screen.

When I’m conscious of this, I try to keep “paragraphs” no longer than two lines (as much as my former English major side protests.)

Grab the Bulletpoints by the Horns

  • Really
  • Bulletpoints are golden
  • They make information digestible
  • And force you to remove excess
  • They’re easy on the eyes
  • Fit nicely on a mobile screen
  • Amirite

Head for the Headers
Just a variation on the theme; it’s all about readability. Catchy, bold headers (bold in both senses of the word) to introduce each new concept are a fantastic way to both organize your copy, and to help a scroll-happy reader find exactly what they are looking for.

Remember the Inverted Pyramid 
We all learned this one in Intro to Journalism, whether we’re Boomers, Millennials, Gen Y’s, Lannisters or Starks. That Golden Rule of journalism, that looked a little something like…

Inverted_pyramid

 

I’m sure it’s ingrained in all of us by now, some of us probably have nightmares of this thing descending upon us like some sort of sharpened spear. And it’s just as well, since the inverted pyramid is great for writing any sort of copy that might be read on a phone, not just news articles.

Unfortunately, this format can’t always apply, exhibit A being this blog entry. But if you can swing it, those short attention spans and likelihood of multitasking would be best served by cramming as much of the meat and potatoes as your message will allow in the first few sentences, with the side of veggies toward the end.

Let’s Get Visual (Visual) 
Speaking of that image of the inverted pyramid above — visuals can be a vital ingredient in your mobile copy stew. Have you ever noticed that you’ll look at the graphics in an email or actually read an infographic with much more attention on your phone screen than your computer screen?

When faced with a lot of text or pictures in a small space, our brains just respond more easily to the visuals. The eye is naturally drawn to images, especially if we need a break from or better understanding of what we’re reading.

 

image1
This got your attention, right?

Images with relevant, interesting information (like infographics) is a great way to ensure the reader is still getting what you want them to get out of your copy. Photos of my cat looking surprised might not be the best example of this, I just wanted you to look at a photo of my cat.

To Wrap it Up…
This blog entry is now 722 words and I have effectively followed maybe two words of my own advice. Like I said, I needed this entry and the consideration that went into it too. Props if you did read this post on mobile.

If you have any tricks up your sleeve for mobile-friendly copy, any particular guidelines you’ve found most effective, please share in the comments! Feel free to share pictures of your cat too, it’s only fair.

 

One thought on “Copywriting for Mobile: Don’t Phone It In”

  1. Agree 100%. Writing direct mail is relatively easy in the sense there is room to say pretty much everything you want to say across multiple printed pieces. Online desktop is harder because of the space limitations, the users’ often impatient state of mind when they are online and the linear qualities of the medium (info typically needs to be revealed in a specific order). Mobile is REALLY HARD for all the reasons this post suggests. Thanks for the post!

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