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. If you do, it can hurt your business.
When writing articles, blog posts, web content, and sales pages, the first and most important rule is to cater your audience. Use language that your audience is familiar with and comfortable understanding. So, it would help if you considered 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 comprises 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 essential to know the average reader’s expertise and then direct your writing to that person. So it is crucial 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:
For many copywriters and people who want to draft their content, this happens to be a tough decision. Generally speaking, if you’re preparing 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 urge them to call a member of the sales team.
However, if you’re drafting a review or a whitepaper, the goal here is to go into detail. 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 essential to break it down into shorter sections and add graphs and 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 apply to them. Then write the content to address 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 emphasize why your material is a must-read for them. For instance, if it is a product review, then why should we 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 keep the money. These must set the expectations in the beginning.
Another significant thing 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 see a lot, you need to guide them to 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 draft may come across as standard practice. After all, you still need to iron out all those grammar issues. However, most people make a mistake. 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. It would help if you found 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) listed there? Now put yourself in your potential audience’s shoes and read the article, review, or website content. We bet you’ll find a lot more wrong with it than you did before!