How to write about a technical subject in plain English

How to write about a technical subject in plain English

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blog writing tips for hard subjects

Guest Post By Mike Sorensen.Want to get involved ? See how you can become a guest author on Spice Up Your Blog.

One of the many challenges that blog writers face is the question of how to write about technical issues for an audience that includes non-technical folks. As a blogger, you want to appeal to everyone who might read your blog, not only to those who are aficionados in a particular area. For example, I write about soundproofing technology on my blog. I need each posted article to have broad appeal, so that everyone understands it, no one is talked down to, and yet the interested knowledgeable reader isn’t turned off by too simple an approach. I have readers who are seasoned audiophiles and know all about soundproofing, and readers who have never handled a piece of acoustic foam. My writing has to be attractive and interesting to both of them – I have to reach out to a wide spectrum of people. How to do this is the question, so here a a few tips.

1. Simplify whenever possible.

Unless you want your readers to think you’re a rocket scientist, simplify, simplify, simplify – as Thoreau said many years ago. There is no technical topic that a blog appealing to a large audience should cover that cannot be streamlined, tweaked, and otherwise made easier to grasp. Take a long, hard look at the subject of your article and decide what is absolutely necessary to know, what is nice to know, and what is an unnecessarily confusing. If your readers really need to know the finer details and esoteric technical fine points, give them a link to another source, or write an experts-only article yourself.

2. Keep jargon to a minimum.

The over-use of jargon is the downfall of many hobbies and special interests. Wine lovers, golden eared hi-fi enthusiasts, video gamers – all have their particular library of words, phrases, acronyms, idioms, and coined English that they love to use to show that they are insiders. Avoid it whenever you can, but if you must use jargon, at least explain what you are saying in different words, and justify your use of it.

3. Define and explain all technical language.

Using a technical term without explanation is not a good thing for a writer to do. You will turn off a potential regular reader by implying that you know more than he or she does and you can’t take the time to explain. Every specialty has its own jargon and technical vocabulary, and learning it is part of learning about the subject. It is your job as a writer to try to define and explicate this lexicon in plain English, keeping in mind the idea that some topics will be harder than others to write about in this way.

4. Use lots of examples, analogies, and metaphors.

Connecting a somewhat exotic topic to the real world of the ordinary reader can be a challenge. If you use an example, an analogy, or a simple metaphor, it can make a big difference. I can say that soundproofing a listening room is like putting a memory foam mattress pad on your old bed – it adds to your enjoyment and maximizes the continued use of what you have. If you can use these tried and true communicative methods to help your readers understand what you’re writing about, then you are an expert blogger.

5. Break down technical processes into small steps.

Technical writers who are explaining complicated processes or giving directions to assemble a machine or piece of equipment do a task analysis as a first step. To do this, you examine the process and break it into discrete steps or stages, which are then presented in order. The reader feels that the writer has the subject under control and is completely knowledgeable about it – you as the writer have the reader’s trust.

6. Encourage the use of imagination and appeal to all the senses for all learning styles.

When you as a blogger are writing about a technical subject and have written it in plain English for a varied audience, you are essentially an educator. What teachers know these days, and therefore you should know, is that different people have different styles of learning. You can use this fact to make your blog more understandable and informative. You can’t do too much about the way you are presenting the material – words on a screen – but you can encourage your readers to use their imaginations to visualize abstract concepts or complex processes, and to imagine using their senses to understand something. A detailed visual, audio, tactile or kinetic depiction of your topic will help everyone learn more about it.

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By Guest Author – Mike Sorensen is a master cabinet maker, structural engineer and the author of audio blog. He provides tips for soundproofing a room using environmentally sound production methods and generally tries to do good by mother Earth.

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