As writers, we’re often caught up in the words, trying to find just the right ones to best express the idea, emotion, or concept we’re writing about. But there are certain questions that we must keep in mind when writing, so that our readers are engaged, enlightened, and are ready to respond to that call to action in our marketing materials.
- Who is my audience?
- How does my audience read?
- Are there any content standards I need to follow?
- What action should my readers take after reading?
Let’s talk more about these questions and how they relate to your content.
Who is my audience?
The idea of audience is a big one for technical copywriters, since we’re often writing about complex concepts and topics that are only understood by small groups of people. I need to make sure to use the right vocabulary and phrasing so that my readers understand what I’m writing about. And this applies to everything from procedure writing, to product descriptions, to website content.
How does my audience read?
Have you ever noticed how you read a newspaper? How about a website? An instruction manual for the new software you bought? A novel?
You probably read only the headlines in the newspaper, look directly at the navigation bar of the website, skim the table of contents of the instruction manual to find the procedure relevant to your immediate need, and then sit down in your favourite chair to read that novel.
These reading habits are important pieces of information that technical copywriters use when writing, because we know that reading habits change based on what we’re reading. As I said before, we read instructions differently than novels, and newspapers differently than websites. Knowing what type of marketing material I’m writing, I make sure to tailor the content appropriately, such as changing my vocabulary and voice, sentence length, and font formatting.
Speaking of vocabulary and font formatting, another question to consider is:
Are there any standards I need to follow with my content?
By standards, I mean things like specific font usage, colour combinations, phrasing rules, word choices, and so on. Most companies have colour standards for their company names, their logos, and some have rules on how certain words and phrases are written (American, Canadian or UK spelling and grammar rules, phrasing conventions for cross references to other documents, that kind of thing.) Failing to follow these standards when you write can detract from the overall message you’re trying to convey, because readers are distracted by the change.
What action do I want my readers to take once they’re done?
Depending on what you’re trying to get your reader to do, the call to action should be appropriate and obvious.
- If you’re writing a technical procedure, the call to action should be presented before the procedure. (“To create a schedule for your staff…” or “To edit the document you just created…”)
- If you’re writing an email marketing message, the call to action could be presented at the end of the message. (“To learn more about this product, and how it can help your company save time, click this link.” or “Phone me now to learn more about this amazing product.”)
In these two examples, the call to action is placed at different points in the content. While there are best-practices about where it should go, sometimes breaking the rules can be even more effective. Knowing when to follow the rules, and when to break them is the mark of a good copywriter.
Good technical copywriters remember these questions as they write, and their content is better for it.
Contact Julia today to find out how she uses these questions to help you improve your technical marketing materials.