Okay, so now you have a beautiful article with keywords that conveys all the information you need to get across.  Let’s take another look at it — this time, from the point of view of the reader.  He sees your page, starts to read, and … stops?  Why?!

Who is your target audience?  Remember, the reason you’re writing in the first place is to convey information someone wants to know or to teach them something you want them to know.  Perhaps that seems simplistic, but I think it fairly well covers what we’ve been talking about.  Taking that into consideration, the last thing you want to do is suddenly throw a bunch of phrases and terms at them that they know nothing about!

The importance (and difficulty) of this step can vary, depending on your target audience.  Are you a nerd writing about your software to try to get a non-technical consumer to buy it?  Then you need to keep any technospeak to an absolute minimum.  Use real language, the kind that people encounter every day to get your points across.  Don’t randomly insert acronyms you’re familiar with without thinking very hard about whether they are needed.

If an acronym is absolutely needed, be sure that you spell out what it is the first time you use it.  If you’re writing for an entire website, still give the words the acronym is derived from on each page the first time it’s mentioned.  As on a recent website I wrote, if a word or acronym is an integral part of your company — like the main product — then perhaps you should have a page dedicated to explaining that term.

Many times, the words used to produce an acronym can’t in and of themselves explain it to the common person.  For example, if you don’t know what a RIA is, does telling you that it’s a Rich Internet Application really clear it up for you? If you are using complex vocabulary, make sure that you are using it in the proper sense and the proper context; the reader should be able to figure out characteristics of the word from the sentence around it, even if they don’t get right off exactly what it means.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you dumb everything down relentlessly, until anyone who actually knows what you’re talking about gets bored and has to move on before their brain melts; consider a page you’re writing as a conversation.  You’re talking to real people — just because it’s a composition does NOT mean you should write it for your college English teacher.  As I’ve mentioned before, it is much more important for the largest possible segment of the population to be able to clearly comprehend what you’re saying than for you to get an A on your paper.  I’m sure if your English teacher is reading, she’ll be grateful to you for getting across what you need to say in the simplest and most concise manner possible.  On the internet, there are no extra points for more words, bigger words, or super-complex sentences.  Leave them out.

This entry was posted on Sunday, November 16th, 2008 at 4:03 pm and is filed under Blog, Technicalities. You can leave a comment and follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. John (Human3rror) said:

    Dec. 4, 2008

    wow, you do look confused.

  2. Heidi Blodgett said:

    Dec. 5, 2008

    Thanks. :-)

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