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Full Spectrum Tech Writing – Defining the process

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My first blog post about Full Spectrum Copywriting was a little short on details. While I’m not a fan of excuses, I can say I left the post short because I’m not sure how much is too much for the blog.

With less than 20 full blog posts under my belt, please bear with me as I find my blogging rhythm.

So let me take Mel’s questions one at a time and see if I can’t clarify things.

How do you figure out what terms (and phrasings) are at what level of beginner/expertness?

Part of it is basic knowledge of the field you’re writing about. The rest is putting yourself in a position to see where the questions might come from. Can you anticipate the FAQ?

So let’s say On-Disk.com is listing a 6 DVD Repo set. First, I need a draft of what needs to be said. Since I’m pretty good with Linux jargon, my first draft will most likely exclude any entry level terms.

For the second step, I’ll look for variations that include opportunities to define the draft without the use of Jargon. Since I’m listing a Repo, I need to use the variations on that term in my listing — Repository, Extra/Additional software, etc — as I strive to find the lowest common denominator.

Lather, rinse and repeat for any of the other industry specific terms from my basic draft – Mirror, Package manager, Dependencies, and such.

Balance is key. You’re not trying to dumb things down or show people how smart you really are. Instead, think about how you can bring people up to speed without taking too much time to do so.

The inspiration for the technique came from my uncle John. He was the first person I ever knew with a PhD (Or at least associated with a PhD). Because I was still a child and feeling that he was probably much smarter than everyone else I told him so. He then explained that no matter how “smart” someone might be, if they can’t explain a concept to someone else, they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

How do you learn these terms if you’re copy writing for a field you’re encountering for the first time (or does that not happen much)?

The thing is, you don’t need to be an expert to take advantage of the full spectrum. Being on the middle ground is also a good place to start.

Most of the time, the copy writing process is more like a translation service. It doesn’t really matter what the product is, since the person/people on the bleeding edge of the technology usually know all the terms and jargon. They may also supply a draft for you to write from.

Have you ever done an experiment to see how much more effective full-spectrum is (over writing entirely for a novice or an expert audience, over writing with the reverse order – expert terms at the beginning, beginner at the end)? That sort of data would make an incredibly compelling pitch for FSC.

Not a formal study, but I do have anecdotal evidence to suggest the benefits.

It kind of plays into one of my other beliefs about customer service.

If one person comments, take note but use your best judgment on how seriously to take it. If a second person tells you almost the exact same thing, there’s no guessing, you’ve got a serious problem.

Full Spectrum copy writing developed as I wrote and rewrote listings and web pages so we could stop tripping up our customers.

~Karlie

Written by Karlie

January 18th, 2010 at 9:18 am

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  1. […] mentioned my “Rule of Two” theory of customer/community relations before. It states… If one person comments, take note but use your best judgment on how seriously to […]

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