Writing for the average person
One of my copywriting specialisms is translating complex ideas into plain English that the average person can understand.
But who is this ‘average person’?
According to See a Voice, the average reading age in the UK is 9.
Guardian readers have an average reading age of 14. Sun readers have an average reading age of 8.
So, you can see the importance of keeping it simple.
Writing technical copy
Technical copy is any copy that’s specific to a certain industry or discipline.
A non-technical audience would be average people outside the industry and with limited prior knowledge of it.
Many industries find it difficult to write copy for the average person. They often fail to explain things properly and use too much specific terminology and jargon
As a non-technical copywriter, here are my tips for how to do it better.
Before you begin
Before you start writing, it’s important to understand what your copy needs to achieve.
Think about what you want:
- Why do you want this audience to read your copy?
- What do you have to gain from them reading and understanding it?
- What’s in it for you?
Think about what your audience wants:
- Why will they be reading the copy?
- What will they be hoping to gain or learn from it?
- What’s in it for them?
Then think about what you need to say:
- What are the main points you need to get across in order to satisfy your aims and those of your audience?
- How much information will you need to provide for them to understand what you’re saying?
Breaking down the information
The most important part of the exercise is to make the information manageable.
- Write the copy in small chunks — use short paragraphs with relevant headings to introduce each section
- If you are listing things, like items or clauses, use bullet points to separate them out
- If you’re describing a process, use numbered steps to outline each stage
- If you need to present statistics or data, consider using a table, graph or pie chart.
Words and terms
- Avoid using jargon, but if you have to use a non-standard or industry term make sure you explain what it means
- Clarify acronyms. The first time you use the term, write it fully, followed by the acronym in brackets, followed by any further explanation, like this: ‘the British National Formulary (BNF), a UK pharmaceutical reference book’
- Explain things as simply as you can, using words most people can understand
- If you have to use a big word, make sure you explain what it means.
If you’re struggling to explain something in a conventional way, try some of these ideas:
- Think of a comparable example your audience will identify with
- Use your imagination to think of a way to explain it using everyday items or scenarios
- If you can explain it better visually, create a simple picture, diagram or flow chart.
Focus on outcomes and benefits rather than features — especially if you’re selling something.
For example, your audience might not appreciate the complexities of your drill’s three-function pneumatic hammer action, but they’ll understand that they can drill through bricks and concrete with it.
When you finish writing, walk away from it and leave it until the following day. Then go back to the copy with fresh eyes and make any edits.
If you feel there’s too much information, consider if there’s anything you could cut out without compromising your message. Your audience might not need all the information to make an informed decision.
If you can, ask a friend or family member with no knowledge of the subject to read the copy.
When they have read it, see how many of the key takeaway points they have picked up and understood. Act on the feedback and make any further changes.
Would you like some help?
I’m Jenny. A plain English copywriter and copy editor with considerable experience of writing technical copy for non-technical audiences.
What qualifies me to write your copy?
I’m incredibly non-technical and can’t write effectively about a technical subject until I fully understand it myself.
In many ways, I’m like your non-technical audience — except I have good comprehension, I know how to ask the right questions and I have a wicked way with words.
So, if you would like me to write your technical copy in a non-technical way — or take an objective, non-technical look at something you have already written, why not get in touch?