When you need to talk technical in your copy (and how to keep it friendly)

So what happens if you’ve got those words, the kind you need to use because they’re specific to your field…

… Only you know if you use them, your readers might not understand you?

They might even find what you say too annoying they can’t connect with you.

Would you risk it?

Especially when the usual advice you hear from copywriters or other editors is to keep your copy simple and all that?

No one wants to work hard on their copy only to find it turning people off.

And yet… what if you knew of a way you could continue to “talk weird” but NOT alienate your readers AT THE SAME TIME?

That’d be something, I bet.

Further still, what if you could capitalise on your distinctive way of speaking, and use it as a way to help you stand out from your competition even more, where your weird words become something readers look forward to?

Read on.

No loss in translation

Havi Brooks, a creativity coach based in Portland, Oregon, decided, to hell with ‘the stupid labels’.

Back when she started her blog The Fluent Self, in 2005, she decided to dispense with such terms as personal development, self-help, time management, productivity, guru – words she viewed as “preachy and not motivational”.

As she described it, “We are all equal here. No external sources of authority needed. We play and have fun.”

Instead, Havi decided to communicate in a way meaningful to her, with emphasis placed on being herself.

Not only did she choose a rubber duck called Selma to be her business partner, but she also introduced her audience to such concepts as Destuckification and Biggification.

Say what?

She also began conducting weekly check-ins with her readers in a feature she called Friday Chicken.

Yep, Havi went and created her own un-user-friendly jargon.

Deliberately.

To anyone looking in, you’d think she was crazy.

The power of jargon

Jargon, of course, is not actually a thing by itself.

It’s what is used to describe the use of industry-specific language that isn’t explained very well to the reader. When it alienates or confuses them, or is just too weird, is when it becomes jargon.

While jargon can be negative for a business, it can also be used in a positive, constructive way, if done correctly.

When jargon is used positively, you can:

  • Form a tribe of readers and customers ‘in the know’, excluding others you don’t want in your business
  • Personalise your authority, simply by creating your own words to describe your concepts
  • Become an authority, since those concepts are completely unique just by having different names

(Where else on the web is there an authority in Destuckification other than Havi Brooks?)

It takes courage to present your content and jargon this way. Especially when the common wisdom (sometimes called Google) argues that creating user-helpful content wins bigger on the search engines.

Now, other editors may advise you explain your ideas more conventionally.

But that’s not me.

The way I see it, as long as your readers know in advance what it is you’re doing, you can carry on.

You give your readers a sense of empowerment if you approach it like that. That they’re going to be members of a very exclusive club, just from reading your copy, is going to feel special.

To also succeed, you yourself need to be clear about what you’re doing and why and how it will impact your business. There’s no point if your goal is to “just be different”.

Deliberate jargon is like any other form of copy – its purpose is to commmunicate. It’s not about you – it’s about your readers. You need to be doing this from a genuine, helpful place, and as early in your business as possible.

When talking weird can’t be stopped

So if you’re got industry-specific language you can’t not use, how do you go about keeping everyone on the same page?

Well, for starters, before you do a single thing – make a list of what industry language you do want to use.

And then try and reduce down your list. You want to try and come up with as many easier ways to explain your language as possible, without resorting to those words.

In my case, for instance, I sometimes use my term ‘content shaping’ to describe my style of editing, one that literally “sculpts” a piece of work into the author’s original vision, starting from the big picture right down to its finer details.

But instead of relying on ‘content shaping,’ I prefer to explain the concept like I did right there. It’s easier that way.

You also want to think about spelling and pronunciation, as well, since your words will eventually become your customers’ words.

For any words remaining that won’t budge from your list, here’s how you get everyone on your side.

  • Use infographics to diagram what you mean. If you do this, you should break down what your term means first, then convert it into visual form.
  • Use images to help you communicate what you’re saying. Perhaps there’s something knotty about your definition that one particular photo can communicate more easily.

You ultimately want to make sure no reader is left confused by what you’re saying. You want them fully engaged and on your side, not guessing. Help them do that as much as possible.

Image: LISA BREWSTER

Comments are closed.