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Writing Digital Copy for Domain Experts
by HOA LORANGER and KATE MEYER on April 23, 2017
Topics: Writing for the Web Content Strategy
Summary: These tips for writing web content for specialized audiences will help you sound authoritative and bolster your credibility. Professionals want content that is easy to scan, factual, and verifiable.
Clients sometimes ask whether traditional web-writing guidelines apply to specialized, highly educated audiences. We conducted a usability study to answer this question. We asked experts (e.g., medical professionals, scientists, and engineers) to research topics related to their work and give feedback. If you write for other types of specialized audiences who need technical content, you will likely find that these guidelines apply for them as well.
Our study found that, like general web readers, highly educated professionals want content that is digestible, concise, and scannable ‰?? that is, formatted according to the rules of writing for the web. The major difference in preference, however, lies in the substance of the content (topics covered and the level of detail) and the importance of credibility.
If you write copy for highly educated or specialized users, follow these recommendations to satisfy their needs and convey credibility.
Provide Facts, Avoid Interpretation
Citations and Supporting Evidence Are Critical
Experts Care About Recency
Shared Vocabularies Change the Rules for Plain Language
Grammar and Spelling Count
What Experts Have in Common with General Audiences:
‰?¢ Experts don‰??t read text linearly or completely. Like other users, they scan text and read only what is interesting or relevant to them. Even while conducting research and reading scientific papers, experts would jump around in the content to find the sections of interest.
‰?¢ Experts don‰??t like fluffy content. They may have larger vocabularies and faster reading speeds than average users, but they don‰??t have time to waste. Articles with long or high-level introductions with little meaningful information signal a general target audience.
‰?¢ Experts aren‰??t necessarily tech savvy. Unless you‰??re targeting experts in the technology fields, don‰??t assume these smart people are automatically advanced web users. For example, we saw a Ph.D. get stuck in a PDF document.
‰?¢ Experts appreciate shortcuts in content. They use summaries and subheadings to help them find the information they want and decide when to read more closely.
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