A communications background with a focus on writing and editing has led my career to morph into web copywriting from a journalist background. Writing and editing government websites means I have worked closely with web developers, transportation engineers, contracting specialists, and executive leadership who all could do things I had no experience in. You do not want me to decide what type of steel to use on a bridge or quickly build a web application from scratch. However, I can take those directions and ensure they are clear for your audience and fit in with the overall tone and voice of your in-house brand and style guides. Plus, I also have to keep in mind web accessibility, design, and industry standards to ensure we are giving the best experience to website visitors.
For some reason, I have come across many specialized in other fields who are convinced writing and editing are very easy skills. Although there are some aspects to these skills that come more naturally to people with certain aptitudes, you definitely need some experience under your belt to be able to finish these tasks quickly and well. Plus, it’s always just easier to spot the errors in situations that you are seeing with fresh eyes. Yet, every communications shop I’ve worked in always has to spend time proving how much we know and can help to build trust with different groups.
I love learning new things and meeting new people. I’ve also navigated varying degrees of resistance to word changes, from hostile to just pure apathy from the group wanting to share a message. But it always confuses me when people get offended when the changes are extensive or their pathway could be navigated differently to help the communications be successful.
Writing clearly and succinctly is not an easy skill to master. Plus the nuances of a sentence can really make or break the messaging. It would be strange to read up on a company and have a shift in a tone such as:
“We love helping our customers find their dream home in a stress-free process. Utilizing the most ingenious processes imaginable we can ensure your dynamic situations are handled. Just one click and we can guide you through the process.”
Woah, what the heck was going on with that second sentence? Here, let me try again with a more friendly tone throughout:
“We love helping our customers find their dream home in a stress-free process. Our teams love guiding you through whatever comes your way with our experienced guides. Just one click and we can guide you through the process.”
A little more friendly now, isn’t it? Still tells the story of having employees who know what they’re doing, even in stressful situations, but focuses more on what we can do for the customer. And also uses lower-grade words to make it easier to scan and understand. Save the big technical words for the academic papers, if you are trying to help a large audience please just make it easy for all of us to understand. Even the smartest people like to easily understand and scan web pages. The average reading level in most areas is 8th grade so that’s a great place to start, especially if this info needs to be translated.
Don’t even get me started on the nuances that style guides or in-house approaches can also add to the process.
Writing and editing are about sharing ideas in the best way possible for your audience and meeting your goals as a business or individual. Just like the developer’s job is to make things work on the site and the specialist needs to make sure contracts follow all the rules.