Technically speaking: How to write great technical articles
As every marketer knows, trust is a valuable commodity and how you get an audience to trust you is often seen as the holy grail of many a marketing campaign. When working in sectors that are especially information-rich and heavy on the jargon (such as the construction and tech worlds), one of the best ways to generate this trust is to write content that shows you know what you’re talking about and that provides informative insights on complex topics.
Often dubbed ‘technical writing’, this is content that’s really just leveraging what you and your brand/business knows, to show that you’re well versed in the minutiae of your field and can use this knowledge to be a reliable, go-to source of expertise.
However, creating good technical content can often be quite challenging, with many minefields and obstacles to overcome before it’s possible to create an article that’s not only rich in intelligent advice and observations, but is also engaging and which editors will want to publish. To help you achieve this, we’ve put together the below tips to help make sure that your next article is ‘technically’ amazing.
Know the publication
The first thing to do is research into the publication that you’re writing for, as this will help you to identify both the level of technicality that you need to go into as well as the style of writing you’ll need to adopt.
Check out other features and articles in the title, preferably on similar topics or from similar sorts of contributors, to see what they’ve published in the past. Also chat to the editor about the style of article that they prefer, as they’ll be able to point you in the right direction and might even have a style guide that you can read up on.
Once you know the style then you’ll have a better idea about the language to use and how best to present the information you’ve got. For example, you might now realise that they don’t mind you being informal, which means that you can take the edge off the data with more playful language, or they might prefer bullet points, short paragraphs and lots of descriptive subtitles, all of which can help you structure your piece.
Balance facts with fun
Okay, fun might be a bit of a stretch. If you’re writing about the tensile strength of rebar or the latest government policies on digital security, then you’re unlikely to be peppering your prose with puns. But, it is important that the copy is a gripping read and that the audience is going to want to stick with the article to the end.
This can be one of the hardest challenges for a marketer or copywriter, as chances are the starting point of a technical article will be sifting through mountains of data sheets, technical presentations, case studies, test reports and the like in order to find the informative nuggets that the reader wants to know.
What’s important is that the tone of those documents doesn’t end up leaking into the article – in short, the trick is to take that information but leave the dry technical style that most of them have to be in behind (you can’t have flowery language when creating data sheets that tell architects how to put a building together).
A good way to make sure you do this is to find a topical angle or hook to base the article around that’s relevant to the information you want to get across. That way, you’re not talking about the data for the sake of the data but building it into a larger message which not only reinforces the importance of the point you want to make, but which gives you a different ‘in’ to the technicalities. This will help you make the article more interesting while straying away from simply rephrasing the technical terminology.
Know your audience
Getting to grips with the title should give you a good idea of this, but it’s still important to have a clear understanding of your audience in mind when writing a technical article. One of the main things you need to know is just what level of technicality will they be happy with? This is crucial, as if you get it wrong then you risk going too technical and confusing them or not being technical enough and patronising them and/or making it look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.
There’s no better way to do this than by talking to the audience, reading what they read and chatting to the people in your business that are at the front line of customer inquiries/demands/issues. When you do this research always bear in mind that what they communicate is more important than how they communicate (see previous point on avoiding dry tech-speak), so keep notes of the key terms, key topics and really dig down into what they’re concerns and interests are, which should hopefully help you route out some insightful gems.
When going through this process be sure to separate personal speculation from quantifiable information, as while opinions can be great, and carefully weaving them into an article can help give the piece a sense of personality, it’s important to be able to back them up.
Know what you want to say – and what you don’t
The lesson here really is to avoid mission creep. When dealing with a complicated topic it can be very easy to start getting lost in the weeds and end up writing about everything – which will likely just result in a bloated, confusing and time-consuming piece of work.
Instead, make sure you have a clear focus about what it is you want to say and how you’re going to say it. Creating a solid structure for the article before you start getting prosaic really helps with this. Another useful tip is the previous point about having a topical hook, as this will help you to keep on track by giving you a natural cut-off point, as if it’s not relevant to the hook then you’re probably safe to disregard that info.
We hope the above points have given you something to think about the next time you tackle a technical piece of text. If you would like any further advice or want to know how we could help out with putting some technical articles together for you, then please get in touch.