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Writing for the Average Reader

WritingWriting Web content can be tricky, especially if you’re writing for customers who might not be entirely familiar with what you’re peddling. You obviously know a lot about the subject matter your writing, but that doesn’t mean your readers do.

Save industry speak for company meetings, and write content that is reader-friendly. Below are a few tips for filtering out the jargon.

Know Who’s Looking at Your Site

You might be writing for like-minded B2B buyers – the best merchant processing companies in the business who welcome backwards and inside-out writing, for example – in which case you can pepper in jargon a little more freely. But more often than not, you have to write for an audience that is not as hip to your industry’s jargon as you are.

The safest approach is to assume that your reader is at least somewhat new to the game.

If you’re writing about vehicle tracking GPS equipment, for example, your target customers might not be familiar with cellular versus satellite tracking, so either explain it simply or leave it out. If you’re concerned about oversimplification, link to a separate page with more detailed information.

Definitions can also be helpful. Many business websites include a glossary that site visitors can use as a quick reference.

Clean House

It’s nice to have a clean site with limited text, so long as you communicate the right message. Don’t dump content onto your page for the sake of taking up space. The more you write, the more tempted you become to drop in industry jargon. Use some discipline when writing, at least on your home page. As mentioned above, you can always include more detailed information on the subsequent pages.

Drop the acronyms

Unless the acronym is widely used outside of your industry (like NASA), just leave it out. Your readers might not be aware with certain organizations. If you have to use them, write them out on first reference – Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA. And say what it does. “OSHA is a federal agency that sets workplace safety guidelines.”

Use common language for academic degrees, as well. Use “advanced degree” or “doctorate” instead of Ph.D., for example. You don’t want to send your readers to Google to find out what all those letters after a name indicate.

How Newspapers Do It

When you write content, think about how it might be presented coming from someone else. Newspapers are an excellent model for how to write content that’s not overly technical, since they must write for all audiences. Pick up a paper and flip to a science story, and take note of how they present information in a reader-friendly way – usually with anecdotes and relatable examples. Analogies are often a tool used by news organizations to make difficult subjects easier to understand.

Visit other blogs and sites similar to yours to see how they approach the same style of writing. But don’t get peer pressured into jargoning up your copy just because the other guy did it.

Bounce It Off of Your Friends

When in doubt, run your content ideas by your friends who have no affiliation with your industry. If you’ve stumped them, chances are good that you’re deep into jargon.

Whatever your approach is for writing website content, remember to go easy on complicated writing. The Internet is not a big word contest. If you have any suggestions for keeping out of the jargon weeds, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.