One of the most basic principles in technical writing is the idea of “chunking” information. It’s actually a phrase that makes me cringe every time I hear it.
- “Chunk” the information.
- “Chunk” the idea.
- “Chunk” the instructions.
I would like to “chuck” the “chunk”, if I could, as the word itself bothers me. But the idea is very valid, especially when working with technical information. There are several main reasons for this.
According to psychologists, humans retain information better when it’s presented in smaller chunks. (Did I just say that? Shudder.) Seriously, when you think about it, it IS easier to read a bulleted list than a paragraph of 5 sentences, right? We have a better chance of retaining steps from a procedure if it has less than 10 steps; ideally it should be in the 7-10 range.
You should be applying the same idea to your technical marketing products too, whether that is a website, case study, or direct mail piece.
Use Headings to Break Up Long Paragraph Blocks
Breaking up an article with headings is easier on the eyes, and lets readers just skim the article for the headings if we want. Think of how you read a newspaper. Just reading the headlines often is enough (though the journalists who worked hard on the articles would like you to read the whole article instead; after all, they did write it!)
Use a Bulleted List for Short Lists of Product Features
In today’s society of instant news and information, we’re simply used to seeing things in smaller and smaller bits. Twitter is a view of the world 140 characters at a time. Sports channels have the ticker across the bottom of the screen that gives you the scores and nothing else. So if you try and write something that’s seemingly too long for your readers, they aren’t going to take the time to read the information.
Apply the same principle to your technical information. A bulleted list is the perfect way to lay out the 3 or 4 main benefits of your software package, or to explain the 5 main reasons your product is better than your competitors.
These are just the few ways you can break down your information into its smallest parts, while still maintaining the core message you want to convey. Want to know more ways? Contact me today and I’ll show them to you.