Negativity in Website Copywriting: The Kiss of Death

Negativity in Website Copywriting: The Kiss of Death

As the United States prepares for a presidential election this fall, voters are becoming increasingly inundated with negative political advertising. Everyone hates negative political messages, but they are often surprisingly effective.

When you write content for your website, readers will find negative content just as repellent. Unlike negative political messages, though, negative copywriting is not effective. Some marketing professionals call it “the kiss of death.”

Why? With so many sites to visit and so much content available, website visitors almost always scan first and only then determine whether the content seems interesting enough to continue reading. If, while skimming, readers see negative words that jump out at them, then they are unlikely to finish reading your content.

Your content should engage and persuade the reader. Framing your thoughts in positive (or at least neutral) language encourages the reader to read on and absorb your full content. Each word you choose has a subconscious influence on your readers, and each must be carefully selected.

Just as a positive outlook in life makes a person more attractive to others, content written in a positive tone attracts readers. Readers are more receptive to positively constructed sentences, and find them easier to understand. They perceive positively worded statements as friendlier.

What exactly are negative words? The most obvious example is when negative statements are made about competitors. Rather than pointing out what is lacking in your competitor’s product or service, focus instead on what makes yours better.

Consider the difference between:

Our competitor’s product is cheaper because it’s flimsy and cheaply made


Our product is far more durable than price-focused competitors’ offerings.

Website writers who know better than to make blatant negative statements about a competitor can still inadvertently allow negative words to creep into their text in subtle ways that put off readers. For instance, would you be more likely to buy a product that is not expensive, or one that is affordable? Would you be more inclined to buy a software release with fewer bugs, or one described as stable?

In other words, say what it is, not what it isn’t.

Even if you are not selling anything, by avoiding negative constructions you will make the reader experience more enjoyable. Which would you, as a reader, rather see?

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Negative words can discourage readers. By avoiding them when developing your content, you contribute to readability, and you project a friendly tone. And those are true positives.


Web Done Write is a professional copywriting, editing and proofreading service specializing in website content. 
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