But too often, companies focus on the look of a piece, neglecting that all-important message.

I am amazed at the effort companies put into the aesthetics of a brochure or Web site and then completely overlook the message. I talked to Janalee Card Chmel, a Denver-based freelance writer, about her brochure and Web site writing experience, and she offered some advice.

Don’t be generic. If your copy could be used by any other company in your industry, don’t even bother – it can do more harm than good.

Put a little of you into it. Share the character of your company in the very tone of your words. No need to get flip or silly. Remember, you don’t need jokes to let your reader know you are approachable or use unrecognizable words to prove you are intelligent. Instead, the tone and cadence of the words can share your company’s style.

Don’t make readers scroll on your Web site. Web site users typically lose interest in a page if they have to scroll through too much copy; put your most important message first. Hire a professional writer to do this for you because it is very hard for “insiders” to cut through the background noise.

Web sites are a one-on-one medium. Most people write Web site copy as though they are talking to the universe (since the universe could access it), but your target is that one person sitting at the computer.

A Web site can be your first spokesperson, so it must share the identity, goals and personality of the company. If it is too generic or unprofessional, readers may not take the next step by e-mailing or calling. I guarantee the media won’t take you seriously if your Web site is meaningless. Remember, the media include a bunch of great writers who can be easily annoyed by boring, meaningless copy.

Take these recommendations to heart, especially if your audience is women. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently reported, “Men like the Internet for the experiences it offers, while women like it for the human connections it promotes.”

Remember, your Web site must connect one-on-one with women in order to be effective. Some other notable facts from the Pew report state that 68 percent of men are Internet users, compared with 66 percent of women. However, because they make up more of the population, the total number of women online is now slightly larger than men. Eighty-six percent of women ages 18 to 29 are online, compared with 80 percent of men that age. And 34 percent of men age 65 and older are online, compared with 21 percent of women that age.

As a professional communicator, I highly encourage you to take your message as seriously as its aesthetics.