I sit down to write about a complex topic. My first thought? Here I go again.
I’m about to battle with myself about the appropriate writing level for this topic. I say for the topic not for the reader because my readership is diverse–you have many levels of experience.
I’ve been writing for diverse skill groups for almost three decades. I’ve also been training editors to do the same thing. There are some mistakes that everyone makes, and some techniques that can make what you write more more useful and engaging for at least 80% of your readers.
These are some tips on writing for a readership that includes beginners to experts. Let’s imagine I’m one of those readers. Here’s what I want you to do.
- Write for someone who’s like you, but doesn’t know what you know about this topic. Choose a voice you’d be comfortable reading. Take an approach that makes sense to you. Use a structure that follows your logic. I’ll be grateful that you made clear decisions about presenting the information, because your article will be easy to follow.
- Don’t worry about insulting me. Give me information. I’m smart, but that doesn’t mean I know. If you worry about insulting me, you unconsciously omit information. Often that detail you think is obvious is the one detail that I can’t see. You’re more likely to upset me by confusing me than by telling me too much.
- I like a well-written review of the basics. Hey, we all forget little things, and we all like to feel smart. As long as you don’t beat me over the head with stuff, I don’t mind hearing good information again. I learned the value of review in school. Just don’t make me feel like I’ll be tested on it.
- Do all you can not to be self-conscious. Writers who are too aware of their readers, thinking too much of what their readers might think, write in a way that makes readers uncomfortable. If you think you are worried that readers might see you as unqualified, ask someone to read your work before you post it. It’s likely that you need to add some confidence.
- Don’t end your post with a sentence that says, “I hope you really liked what I wrote.” You’ve given me advice as an expert. I want to believe you are one. If I’ve made it there, I’m convinced–to say that tells me I might have been wrong.
Two points are for bloggers who might be nervous.
Keep in mind that some expert readers may want to help out a beginner, and you’ll have more confidence writing the basics, especially if you’re worried that they already know them. But before you convince yourself that all of your experts know all of the basics, think of how fast things change and how many self-taught people there are. If you are thorough in your writing, there is a good chance you’ll be teaching some of your experts something they didn’t know too.
–ME “Liz” Strauss