If you’re a copywriter, you probably started out with the idea that writing was all about making words sing, or at least gripping people with your story. Then you got into technical writing and learned that there are other things to consider: audiences, tone of voice, making sure the message is clear…the list goes on.
But what I’ve learned most from my time working as a technical writer is that good writing involves so much more than just saying stuff in an interesting way it’s about getting your audience to understand what they need to know without even realizing they’re learning something new.
Here’s some advice on how to make sure that happens when you write anything from an article or blog post to an email newsletter:
|The intersection of technical writing and copywriting offers unique insights.|
|Understanding the principles of technical writing enhances copywriting skills.|
|Effective communication is at the core of both technical and copywriting.|
|Adapting technical concepts for a broader audience requires clarity and simplicity.|
|Technical writing and copywriting can complement each other, leading to versatile writing abilities.|
Technical Writing Is Straight To The Point
One of the most important things I learned about technical writing is that it’s all about getting to the point quickly.
As a copywriter, you need to be clear, concise, and direct with your readers. What this means for you as a writer is that you must know your topic inside-out so that when you write about it for clients, it’s easy for them to understand what you’re talking about and why they should care (which might be something like: “We have great products!”).
As an example of how to do this well, let’s take a look at one of my favorite technical writers: Stephen King. The opening lines from his novel The Gunslinger are famous because they set an ominous tone in such few words:
“The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.”
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The Audience Comes First, Always
When you are writing, the audience comes first. Always. This is the cardinal rule of technical writing and a rule that can be applied to nearly all forms of communication from emails to blog posts to formal documents.
It’s easy to assume your audience knows everything about you and your subject matter. Perhaps they do know it all! But more likely than not, they aren’t familiar with either the topic or the language used in your piece. They might even have no idea what you are talking about at all!
So what should we do? How can we make sure our writing is clear and concise? The answer lies in making sure our writing is accessible to everyone who reads it without feeling patronized by simplification or condescension.
Ask For More Time, And More Time Again
Don’t be afraid of asking for more time to write, edit, and revise your work. I started at CWR with a one-week deadline for every article I wrote; that’s about as ideal as you can get in terms of writing speed. As my career progressed, however, I started getting shorter and shorter deadlines sometimes even just a day or two before an article needed to be published.
The upside was that this gave me the chance to write quickly and more often; the downside was that it put pressure on me to rush through my work without taking enough time to review my own words or make sure they were clear enough for readers who were coming across them cold.
If you find yourself falling into this pattern of wanting more output but not having enough time to do it right, try setting longer deadlines for yourself:
If you’re doing copywriting full-time (which I hope we’ll all be), then your employer should understand that extra attention will improve both quality and quantity over time and they might even reward you with some extra pay while they’re at it!
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Make Sure A Piece Of Technical Writing Does What It Says On The Tin
This is the most important thing that a writer does in technical writing: make sure the subject of their piece is clear.
That means making sure your audience knows what you’re going to talk about, and also what they will get out of it. If you have a title like “The Evolution of Technical Writing from Aardvark to Zebra,” but the article focuses on how much technology has changed over time, then you’ve got some work to do!
It also means ensuring that your content addresses its stated purpose or goal. You wouldn’t write an article titled “How To Get Fit Without Going To The Gym (And Enjoy It!).
If all it talks about is what makes working out fun for one person; instead, think about how many other people may benefit from this information and tailor your content accordingly maybe even creating multiple versions so that readers can find exactly what they want regardless of their fitness level or interests.
Technical Writing Is Often Highly Visual
When you’re writing for an audience that has a different background from yours, it can be hard to find the right words to use. What do they think about when they hear “typewriter?” Do they have any idea how computers work?
The best way to deal with these questions is by using images and diagrams in your text. For example, let’s say that I want to explain how a photocopier works.
If I were writing this article on my own, my first instinct would probably be to talk about the various parts of the machine:
Tray, scanner/printer assembly unit (SPUA), feeder assembly unit (FAU), etcetera ad nauseum until all of my readers were bored out of their minds and had fallen asleep on their keyboards like one of those poor souls in The Matrix Reloaded who got stuck in limbo after taking those red pills (which were just energy drinks).
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Even If You’re Heading Somewhere, You Need A Map
So even if you’re not writing technical copy, it helps to know what your goal is: What do you want people to do after reading your content? Are there specific actions you want them to take? How will they benefit from that action?
A great way of answering these questions is by developing a plan for how your content will achieve its goals. Next, think about how this plan fits in with the rest of your business strategy and vision a clear understanding of where the company is going (the vision) will help determine which route we take on our way there (our strategy).
Most importantly though, remember that it’s never enough just knowing where we’re going we also need people who are committed enough to put in the hard work needed to get there.
That’s why having an effective mission statement can be so valuable; it outlines exactly what this journey means for both employees and customers alike: everyone knows why we’re taking it together!
Know Your Audience And Respect Their Need For Information
As a copywriter, you need to know your audience and respect their need for information. If you don’t do this, then you’re going to leave your readers grumbling about how much they hate being lectured. So who is your audience?
Know what they need to know: If you’re writing an email newsletter about new products on sale at the store, then it’s safe to assume that most people already understand what those products are and why they might want them.
You can skip any explanations about what things cost or how useful they are. However, if those same customers have never been inside of a hardware store before in their lives and don’t know what kinds of materials are available there (let alone which ones work best).
Then maybe they would appreciate some basic tips on where to look first or how much each product costs so that they can figure out whether or not it’s worth buying something right now instead of later when cash flow improves again.”
Data Is King
When you’re a copywriter, one of the most important things you can do is research. The more information you have about a topic, the better your writing will be so don’t be afraid to dig deep into data sets and reports.
Data is king in terms of technical writing because it allows writers to show off their research skills and expertise with numbers and statistics as well as make an impact on readers by using data-driven facts. But this doesn’t mean that all technical writers are number crunchers; they also need excellent writing skills to present those facts clearly and effectively.
Stick To The Facts
I began to understand the importance of keeping things simple. Technical writing is more than just putting words on paper it’s about making sure you’re communicating with your readers, who may not be in the same industry as you or know exactly what you do.
When writing for a general audience, it’s important to stick to the facts and avoid jargon and buzzwords (these are terms that only people in a particular field use).
You also want to make sure the sentences aren’t too long, but also not too short. And don’t forget about simplicity: keep your vocabulary simple so that anyone can understand what you’re saying!
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Write About Stuff In Words That People Will Understand
As a copywriter, you have to write about things in words that people will understand. It’s helpful if you use simple words and short sentences.
It’s also good to use everyday language and familiar words and phrases. You can use active verbs and keep the verb tense consistent throughout your piece of writing. It will be better if you use positive words instead of negative ones.
It is also important that your audience may feel familiar with the words which are used in your technical writing project because this will help them connect with what they are reading easily!
If You Think Something Might Be Confusing To The User, Ask Someone Else To Check It Out
If you think something might be confusing to the user, ask someone else to check it out. You can ask a friend or family member, or even someone in your target market.
If you have a colleague who’s not in your target market, send them an email and ask them if they would read through it before giving it back to you. Asking for feedback makes people feel valued and helps keep grammar mistakes from slipping unnoticed (because no one likes bad grammar).
Clarify Anything That Can Be Misunderstood
Be clear about the purpose of your article. Is it to teach someone how to do something? Or is it to explain what can go wrong when people don’t follow certain rules? Clarifying the purpose of your article will make sure that readers know exactly why they should be reading what you’ve written and how they can use it in their own lives.
Make sure the reader knows what the article is about. You want to make sure that your readers are clear on what they’re going to learn by reading your post or article, so be specific in terms of content and examples.
Also, try not to introduce any new concepts until later in the piece you want them focused on a topic rather than wondering where all this information is going or why it matters at all!
Make sure the reader knows how to use the information in the article. Don’t assume that everyone has experience with whatever subject matter you’re writing about; instead, provide step-by-step instructions for those who need help understanding something new (and give plenty of examples along with these steps).
It’s also important here not only because people may need additional guidance but also because some technical details might get lost during translation from one language into another!
Know Your Subject
As a technical writer, you’re not just writing for yourself. You’re writing for an audience who has different needs, interests, and expertise than you do. Understanding your audience is key to creating useful content that will help them achieve their goals.
You might wonder how to know who your target audience is when writing about a product or service with multiple users. In many cases, the answer lies in understanding the user the person who will be using whatever it is you are describing in your content.
This means thinking carefully about what they have experience with or familiarity with before diving into detail on how they might use something new (like a product feature).
Navigating the world of technical writing requires a toolbox of resources and guidance. Dive into the treasure trove of knowledge offered by 16 Resources for Technical Writers: Agents, Publications, and More, and equip yourself for success in this multifaceted field.
Listen To Feedback And Don’t Be Defensive Or Precious About Edits Or Amends
As a copywriter, you’re going to be working with a lot of people. Some are going to know more about the topic than you do and will have good suggestions for how to improve your work. It’s important that you listen carefully and not get defensive or try to argue with them over every last change they suggest.
You’re not being paid by the hour, so don’t take it personally if someone suggests that something needs fixing in your document or on your website just make sure it gets fixed!
Don’t take edits and amends personally it’s not a personal attack on your abilities as a writer
Don’t take edits and amends as criticism they’re just suggestions for improving the quality of what you’ve written
Don’t feel like the changes are challenges designed specifically against you
Don’t Just Assume That Your Audience Understands What You Are Talking About And Why It Is Important
It was hard to write technical content because I didn’t have a good mental model of what it meant. I had the impression that it was something like:
Writing in jargon that you don’t understand and that your audience doesn’t either
Writing in jargon that you do understand and that your audience does too.
In summary, technical writing is a discipline that requires you to be precise and clear. It’s not as simple as just filling in the blanks with words; you need to know your audience and write accordingly.
If you don’t have much experience in this area, it might be worth doing some research into how other people have approached technical writing before embarking on your first piece of work!
Expand your knowledge with these insightful resources:
Reflection on What I Have Learned in My Education: Delve into a reflective essay discussing valuable insights gained through education and personal growth.
Technical Writing Advice for Aspiring Freelancers: Learn from industry professionals about entering the world of freelance technical writing and honing your craft.
Exploring the Role of a Technical Writer: Discover the responsibilities, skills, and opportunities that come with a career in technical writing.
Have questions about technical writing? We’ve got answers:
What skills are essential for a successful technical writer?
Successful technical writers need strong communication skills, attention to detail, and the ability to distill complex information into clear, understandable content.
How can I transition into a career in technical writing?
Transitioning into technical writing often requires enhancing your writing skills, learning industry-specific knowledge, and building a portfolio showcasing your abilities.
What types of documents do technical writers create?
Technical writers create a variety of documents, including user manuals, technical guides, online help systems, and instructional videos to convey complex information effectively.
What role does technology play in modern technical writing?
Technology plays a crucial role in modern technical writing, enabling writers to create interactive content, collaborate remotely, and adapt to rapidly changing tools and platforms.
How can I stay updated on industry trends in technical writing?
Staying informed about industry trends involves following technical writing blogs, attending conferences, networking with professionals, and participating in online communities.
Costantine Edward is a digital marketing expert, freelance writer, and entrepreneur who helps people attain financial freedom. I’ve been working in marketing since I was 18 years old and have managed to build a successful career doing what I love.