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One of the myths that you’ve probably run into online and even offline perpetuated by dozens of so-called experts is that you need to dumb down content so that it can be read and understood. The more supposedly dumb your content is, the more people will read it. In reality, that’s not always the case.
Sure attention spans have become shorter, but that does not mean that people have become dumber. Unless your content caters to a vast audience, there is no need to dumb it down. In fact if you do it can hurt your business.
The first and most important rule when writing articles, blog posts, web content, and sales pages is to write for your audience. Use language that your audience is familiar with and comfortable understanding. So, you need to take into consideration who your audience is, their average level of education, income level, and the industry you’re writing for before even touching the keyboard.
The biggest mistake you can make is drafting a dumbed-down sales page (for instance) for people who are Ph.D. level buyers. The same goes for if your audience is comprised of business owners, working parents or well-educated immigrants. The only time you’ll want to write at an 8th-grade level is if your audience hasn’t received anything beyond a high school diploma or GED.
It is also important to know the expertise of the average reader and then direct your writing at that person. So it is essential to do your research to understand the audience and then tailor what you write accordingly.
Identifying your target audience is easier said than done. It does take some time and knowledge of the industry to make an accurate identification. However, we’ve put together this short questionnaire which should help you identify their needs and wants:
Now for many copywriters and people who want to draft their own content, this happens to be a very difficult decision. Generally speaking, if you’re drafting a sales page, home page or description for a set of products it pays not to go into too much detail because the goal is to get the reader to ask questions by clicking on any one of the products to learn more about it. Alternatively, they would also be urged to call a member of the sales team.
However, if you’re drafting a review or a whitepaper, the goal here will be to go into as much detail as possible. Even jargon is fair game if your intended audience can understand it. That said when going into too much detail, you run the risk of making the content boring to read. That’s why it then becomes important to break it down into shorter sections and add graphs as well as other graphics to make everything you’re writing about more comfortable to digest.
The general rule of thumb is to find out what people want to know or applies to them. Then write the content so that it addresses what they want to know and in as much detail as they would care to read. At times putting yourself in the shoes of a potential reader makes sense, but if you’re writing for a broader audience then that isn’t very practical. In case you’re writing for a wider audience keeping things less detailed should work perfectly.
Make sure that you emphasis as to why your material is a must-read for them. For instance, if it is a product review, then why should they read the review? It would be because they could be saved from spending hundreds of dollars on a potentially low-quality product or perhaps you have an alternate product that will save them money. It is important that these expectations are set in the beginning.
Another thing that’s very important is to guide your audience through whatever is written. Now, this may seem strange at first but bear with us on this. Think about what your audience already knows about a situation, product or service? If they know a lot then you need to guide them to where you assume they may not know much. If they know very little, then you need to steer them to the very beginning. So, the content you create should be scannable and modular.
To create your content that’s geared appropriately towards your audience, make sure to answer these questions:
Finally! Reading your own draft may come across as standard practice after all you still need to iron out all those grammar issues. However, the mistake most people make is that they run through it in record time because they already know what’s written. If you read this way, you’re going to miss gaps in your content. We all have a natural gap filler in our brains, also called writer’s bias. So, you need to find a way to put away that bias when reading a draft you put together.
Think about if your texts answer all the questions a potential reader may have? Does it make finding relevant information quick and easy? Are all the crucial points in one place (usually a bullet point list). Now put yourself in the shoes of your potential audience and read the article, review, or website content. We bet you’ll find a lot more wrong with it than you did before!