Grommets. Pallets. Shielding. Programming.
Boring technical writing is everywhere. It feels mostly written for SEO and like who cares. I mean, really: who wants to read 2000 words on electronic shielding? Very few people. But some do. And some will. And when the humans show up, are they going to be bored to tears? Well, if you’re a decent writer, they shouldn’t be.
As someone who has spent a fair share of my professional career in the world of technical writing, here are some ways I release the pressure cooker of minutiae and make technical copy readable.
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This sounds strange as a first piece of advice but I promise it’s the right one.
Expect people to read what you write.
Paradigm and perception are huge. When you face that blank page, are you picturing… no one? Nothing? An empty void of 0s and 1s and the world wide web?
Think about humans. Think about them reading.
Even this very slight ideological shift will transform every writing decision you make along the way.
The word “conversational” has deteriorated into nothingness by overuse. It’s the mantra of the vanilla brand voice that lives in neutral-land next to void-ville.
But it is what I mean.
If you were professionally trained as a writer, I’m confident at least one professor or boss told you “read this out loud.”
Sounds different, doesn’t it?
The goal behind marketing copywriting is to have the voice you write in be as close as possible to the voice in people’s heads.
Talk to them.
Talk to the people who are reading your technical blog or email or website.
Talk to them like they are people.
This means breaking the rules… a lot. Like this. And that…. Also here. Stretch grammar a little.
It creates this really delightful juxtaposition to the heaviness of highly technical writing. You would be shocked at how much people will appreciate it.
Direct your content to them. Just talk.
The soul of wit, etc.
There is a real risk when you’re dealing with complex subject matter to drone. Because, of course, complexity requires clarification and definition and but sometimes…es. That’s fair. You can’t compromise accuracy.
But you do need to get ruthless about self-editing technical copy.
Because you will lose people. You can install every app you want to map the fall-off point, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s your fault (the writer’s fault. Always the writer’s fault.).
Say what you must, everything you must, in as few words as possible. Only rookies need superfluity. And only jerks end sentences with adverbs.
There are few things more satisfying to a writer than the permission to go deep. And here is where you can.
Technical writing requires depth. It means the deep dive or the high climb, whichever plane in which you prefer to receive your metaphors.
The real value is in the entire body of the work, not each little piece. You probably have a smaller, more specialized audience. These are people who do have an interest in the topic, and they themselves may be ready to go deep with you.
This means you can build a robust, powerful, compelling body of work. Over time. To cover things exhaustively.
Technical writing at its finest isn’t just readable. It isn’t just mildly informative or passable. It’s riveting. Even if it’s about rivets.
Wondering how to get to this level of technical writing? My YouTube channel has loads of ways to do the deep work of honing your writing skills. Also, here on the blog.
Wherever you learn it, immerse yourself in the discipline and you could have an exceptionally important impact in a technical field.
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