The Art of Distilling Your Complex Info into Reader-Friendly Content
Here's the thing. I have a background in editing. I am a minimalist and a perfectionist. Both at work and in life, I value clear and loving communication.
So when a piece of writing or media fails to really communicate the point, I'm left frustrated.
And I know I'm not alone.
Far too often, marketing copy and content is written by someone very knowledgeable and smart but isn't "translated" for the reader it is intended for.
Note: if you're an astro-physicist and you're writing papers for your peers, that's an entirely different scenario. Use all the complex terminology, acronyms and analogy that you need to get your point across.
But if you're a company selling your product or service to a layman, you've got to write for that layman.
You've got to connect with them.
Find their pain points.
Understand their lifestyle.
Use their language.
You've got to distill the interesting points.
Write with that person in mind.
Make it reader-friendly.
You've got to remember that they don't know what you know.
See the thing is, as laymen, we haven't conceptualised, designed or created your product. We don't have a degree in it. We don't know the ins and outs, the details, the language, the benefits or... the point of what you're trying to communicate.
This is true whether you're writing 150 word ad copy or a 2000 word technical product manual.
Enough whining. There's a very delicate line between overexplaining and not-explaining.
Start with understanding who your reader is...
and then put them at the centre of...
every. single. word.
That's the biggy!
The cornerstone of all marketing copy.
Now if you've figured that out and want more reader-friendly tips, read on.
7 concrete tips for turning complex information into reader-friendly content:
1. Write for one reader.
Start with figuring out your one person. Yes, likely (hopefully!) more than one person will be reading. But by focusing it to your one core persona, your writing will be clear, effective and purposeful.
“Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.”- Kurt Vonnegut
2. Make sure each sentence is as clear as possible.
Now is not the time to show off your huge vocabulary or prose poetry.
Now is the time to KISS: Keep it Simple, Stupid.
The Hemingway app is a great tool for testing this. It highlights when sentences need shortening, use of too many adverbs and suggests simple, alternative words.
“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Stephen King
3. Replace phrases with one word.
Attention spans in 2018 are short. Succinct is key. Examples for replacing paragraphs include:
in a timely manner --> quickly, promptly
in accordance with --> by, following, per, under
in advance of --> before
in regard to --> about, concerning, on
& so on.
"One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple." - Jack Kerouac
4. Stick to the point.
Before you start writing, you have to decide… why are you writing? Put it on a post-it note and refer to it often.
Then at every stage think to yourself: “Does this sentence contribute to the point?”
5. Cut out the first paragraph.
Nine times out of ten I delete my first paragraph. Usually it's a brain dump that most writers pen before they find their flow.
This is not an exam where you get more points for more words. No one will miss that first paragraph, promise.
6. Cut out (or explain) acronyms.
I hang out with a lot of medic friends who seem to speak a different language. Now they are quite used to me shouting "translation!!" at them when they slip into doctor-speak.
But when you can't scream at the writer for an explanation, a reader will feel alienated and irked. Where appropriate acronyms can be used, but be sure to explain them or include a reference.
7. Hire an editor.
A second pair of eyes can be the difference between good and great. A good editor has the distance required to know if something makes sense. They add value to your information and - most importantly - they rescue readers from boredom and confusion.
There you have it!
Want help turning your complicated subject into appealing content? I'd be happy to help. Get in touch to discuss your needs here.
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