Short Answer: Your Audience
Better Answer: Everyone
If you ever took a course on writing, you know to define your audience beforehand and keep them in mind when writing. Questions like “Are they existing customers or potential clients?”, “Do they know their way around the product?”, and “Are you convincing them of something or providing instruction?” help you to create content that works for them.
But if you focus too much on a specific audience, your words could pigeonhole your product or leave room for misinterpretation.
So I say don’t write only for your audience. Write for the everyday person, for yourself, and for your company.
The Everyday Person
Even if you know the role of the reader, you probably don’t know how much experience they have with your product. Some could be a customer for years, others could be new to their job entirely. You don’t want to assume all readers are seasoned. By following these tips, not only will your intended audience understand you, but the new graduate your client just hired will be able to follow along.
Stay away from jargon.
I get it. Jargon is cool and often times easier to use. But if you use too much of it and never explain yourself, some readers might feel like they’re not in with the “in” crowd or just confused in general. And if they’re potential clients coming from a new market, this could turn them off enough to look elsewhere. Try to replace jargon with everyday words. If not, include a quick explanation of the term the first time you use it.
Slide in a reference list.
To write for your intended audience and the everyday person, the answer is reference lists. You don’t want to saturate your content with too much detail to accommodate the everyday reader – that’ll irritate your intended audience. What you can do, however, is slide a reference list in or add it to the side, so your less experienced readers can learn from it and your seasoned readers can skip it.
You and Your Company
Now that you know how to write for your readers, don’t forget to write for you and your company. It’s easy to focus on what’s right for the customer and put yourself before them, but it’s also important you do the following:
Cover your ass.
Writing content for your company is as much for the readers as a chance to cover your ass. If you leave out pertinent information, you can’t blame user error when something goes wrong. If you use vague words as a way to persuade potential customers, you may end up promising more than you plan. You don’t have to expose your faults, just make sure to point them in the right direction.
Feel confident in your writing.
The moment you try to sound like someone you aren’t, you lose your sense of self in your writing. Trying to sound too hip or too intelligent usually comes out like a mess. Readers read right through this, and your words end up sounding weak. Stay true to your voice and to your company. The confidence will show and help convince your readers.
You want your writing accessible. And you want it to work for you.
So write for the everyday person and yourself just as much as you write for the intended audience. If the person just clicking through websites can’t make sense out of the blurb on your About page or the installation manual under your Support page, then you’re probably turning away clients sooner than you thought.