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Writing Technical Info for an Everyday Audience

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When it comes to digital marketing, working in a technical space such as engineering, medicine, or law presents a whole host of issues. These industries are often highly-specialised with jargon, technical writing, legal requirements, and industry standards dictating what you speak about, and how you speak about it.

Contrast this with the fact that not all your users speak English as a first language and the fact that the average language understanding level for an internet user is around an 8th-grade level (based on the Flesch–Kincaid readability tests) and you may be wondering how to convey complex technical information succinctly and effectively. Luckily, the answer is simpler than it may seem. 

All you need to make your service or product understandable is to simplify your message, clear up your language, and get creative with the layout. Ideally, if you can convince your reader to contact you for more information or consultation then you can always go into greater detail about what you exactly you do.


What is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test?

Readability is an important part of a user’s experience. Besides making your information clear and concise, content that is easy to read will reduce bounce rate, aid site navigation, and ultimately, shows your reader that you know what you are talking about. 

The Flesh-Kincaid readability test (FK test) is a popular formula, particularly in the US, as it uses American schooling education to score English language proficiency. The scores range from 100.0 to 0.0 with 100.0-90.0 being very easy, basic 5th-grade language down to 10.0 to 0.0 representing professional language that is difficult to read without a university education. 

The FK test is one that many digital tools employ as the simple formula can be added to writing tools such as SEMrush’s writing assistant (paid tool) as well as the Hemingway app or Grammarly. The universal nature of this test makes it ideal for standardising readability and deciding if a text is too difficult to read.


How to write technical content for readability

Technical content readability is a fine balancing act that requires you to consider the hierarchy of information (i.e. Key information that your users need to know) vs. the complexity of your language. 

Consider your audience

First, you will need to consider who your audience is? Is your target audience someone within the industry (B2B) with an understanding of technical terms or is it customer-facing (B2C) where some of your traffic may be new or unfamiliar with the technical language or writing required? Think carefully about who you are trying to attract and what language they use daily. This can inform your content strategy and allow you some wiggle room when it comes to readability

Readability also takes into account attention span which is notoriously fickle online (especially on mobile devices). By improving your readability you can reduce bounce rate and increase movement deeper into the site.

Write in an active voice

This step is part of any writing clinic and is something native English speakers do without thinking. The English language functions in two voices; active and passive. 

 

Active voice:
The boy kicks the ball. 

Passive voice:
The ball is being kicked by the boy.

 

These examples may seem very simple but they illustrate the point. Native speakers can understand these sentences but someone who is learning English as a second language may struggle with the verbs used in passive voice.

Active voice has a direct, clear tone that is concise and easy to understand. Wherever possible you should attempt to write content in the active voice. Some passive sentences may be required but editing with the active voice in mind is a surefire way to lower the reading difficulty and up your readability score.

Use technical language only when necessary

This is a great exercise for all content. When editing your work consider switching out complex phrases or words for simpler alternatives. Replace words such as ‘therefore’, ‘as a result’, and other ‘academic’ language with simpler words such as ‘so’, ‘because’ etc. 

Similarly; when it comes to technical language and writing such as units of measurement or processes;  consider what your audience may understand. Use language or reference points that are easy to digest.

For example:

This process allows you to speed up operations by X%

Our manufacturing site can roll out X units every week.

 

Focusing on output or real-world results can help you show off the benefits of your work without getting bogged down in technical details.

Break up the text

This goes for all writing online. Text-heavy sites are intimidating and can be hard to navigate, especially on mobile devices. Wherever possible break up text with headings to direct readers, bullet points to simplify lists, and numbered lists to highlight processes. 

Structuring your content with headings, subheadings, tables, and the like also have the added benefit of making your site easier for search engines to crawl.

Use stats and infographics

Last, but not least; use statistics wherever possible. Infographics and videos are easy to share and understand, plus they have the benefit of showing off great results. These stats can also be represented in videos and gifs; adding some much-needed dynamism to your website.

We hope you found this guide helpful in explaining technical skills or services. Whether you’re working in finance, law, construction, medicine, or engineering you can make your content digestible and easy to understand. If you have any questions about content marketing or want to get in touch to work with us on a range of digital marketing services; from SEO and PPC to social media marketing, PR, and content marketing then give us a call. Our team has a wealth of experience and tools designed to help you achieve great results and attain your goals.

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