_by Michael Penner
Let’s get right to it. These are just highlights:
- Define your audience by the problem you solve for them. Do they know they have a problem, and are they familiar with solutions like yours? If the answer is no to either of these questions, your writing will need a heavy educational component to it before the audience understands your value.
- Define your audience by their familiarity with your industry. Are they engineers who expect technical language and process charts, or are they the general public that would be turned off by jargon?
- Does your audience care about how you solve a problem, or just that you do? A more technical audience might care about the “how”, whereas the average consumer probably wouldn’t understand it if you explained it.
- Is this an audience that would respond to a message based on fear, uncertainty, and dread (don’t let the next Colorado hail storm destroy your roof, use our protective covering, or risk spending $40k for a new room after the next storm), or do they respond to positive messages better (our roofing service can save you 20% and get you ready for the next storm)?
- Use progressive disclosure so that as readers scroll down or link to inside pages, they get more and more detail. Don’t try to hit them with everything at the top of the screen. This doesn’t only apply to words. You might have a very technical video embedded at the bottom of a page or a lightweight video embedded near the top. For images, it’s the same.
- Use a service such as Grammarly to check your writing. It’s not perfect, but I’ve been using it for about four years and am impressed by its recommendations.
- Get a Style Guide that works for your industry. I use the Chicago Manual of Style, the AP Style Guide, and the Oxford Dictionary of American Usage and Style. Your industry will determine which is best, but I find the Oxford Dictionary to have the most universal relevance.
- Be prepared to go through three rounds of editing and revisions, and for some paragraphs to take hours to craft. Good writing is difficult, but it’s critical for showing respect to your audience.
- Avoid “stream of consciousness” writing, even in your blog articles. It comes across as haphazard and not well thought out otherwise. However, for your first few drafts, do what you must to get something…anything…written down. Then you can revise it. Don’t worry about perfection in the first few drafts. Just write!
- Avoid feedback by committee. Everyone’s an expert on how something should be written, and you’ll end up with conflicting suggestions. Find one person you can trust that is good at English (or whatever language you are writing in), and let them be your editor.
Notice I didn’t mention anything about writing for search engine optimization. If you follow these basic tips you’ll connect with humans, and will be able to craft your writing to reach SEO goals. As many SEO experts will insist, always write for humans first. Search engines like that.