When is technical copywriting too technical?

by Darren Clare

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Our senior technical writer, Colm, has over 10 years’ experience in technical copywriting, writing for companies like Saab, Ericsson, Hitachi, Achilles and Kaspersky Lab. Colm’s work reformulating technical copy into digestible and engaging content demonstrates the clear benefits of investing in copywriting services for technology companies.
We asked Colm for his insights into what makes for great technical copywriting.

Why do technology companies need copywriters?

Making it in the technology industry usually involves specialising for years. This means speaking – and thinking – in very technical language, eventually suffering from ‘the curse of knowledge’. Businesses become so used to the technical language they use they can no longer work out how much the man on the street understands. The role of a technology copywriter is not to be the most technically minded person in the room. It’s about understanding both the solution or service you’re promoting, as well as the intended audience – and having the experience and expertise to effectively communicate a proposition in a way that works for everyone.

Why is it important to create jargon-free content?

Jargon is like an internal language used by particular groups; it enables industry specialists to share insight more accurately and collaborate more effectively. This works if you need to communicate with a small number of people within your niche sector. Jargon is of little use to most, so you’ll need to take a different approach if you want to appeal to lots of people. The difficulty comes when you’re trying to write clear, concise content that has to include technical language. It’s vital you don’t gloss over important information, as you risk causing problems for your client and their clients further down the line. Sometimes you have to use specific wording that could confuse the average reader, for instance within the FinTech sector, which is heavily regulated. If this is the case, the solution is to take the time to fully explain the words or phrases used.

How do you bridge the gap between specialist knowledge and clear communications, making content accessible without ‘dumbing it down’?

Technology copywriting is all about creating layers of content. The top-level messaging should always be as universal as possible, so start with a general point and drill down into the details more and more as you build the copy. This gives readers the choice to learn as much as they want to without immediately becoming alienated. Creating context from the outset is crucial, as you can’t assume people know what you mean just because you do.

How do you judge how much the reader will understand and strike the right balance?

This is where a good technology copywriter really adds value. Two people can read the same article in completely different ways. Some readers just need an overview; others want to know the details. Using the ‘layering’ method previously mentioned, and writing clearly and confidently, will help guide readers through the piece and give them the information they need. Research is a key element in striking a balance, so you can tackle the issue from the reader’s point of view.

How do you approach technical copywriting?

I prioritise three rules:

  1. It’s ok to ask questions – in fact, it’s often a good idea, as you’ll get a deeper understanding of the subject matter and the direction you should take it in.
  2. If you’re tackling a complicated issue, break everything down into ‘chunks’ – even if they’re as small as individual words in a sentence. Once you’ve worked out the meaning of the text, you can build it back up in your copy.
  3. Concentrate on best practice. This goes back to writing clearly and confidently. Stick to the basic rules of good copy: introducing one idea per sentence, keeping paragraphs short and incorporating plenty of subheadings. As well as guiding your readers, this will help you focus your thoughts.

What do you enjoy most about technology copywriting? 

I’ve always been interested in technology and I like the challenge of trying to simplify the complex language. Technology copywriting is often more interesting to me than other sectors, as the sector constantly innovates so there are new platforms, products and solutions to explore. The trick is being able to find the engaging subject matter and emphasise the right aspects in your copy.

Is there still progress to be made with communication in the tech industry?

The industry is moving forward but there’s a long way to go, as most technology companies are time-poor when it comes to marketing. They’ve often invested a lot of time and resources in their new product, and content may not be at the top of their priority list to get right. Just as their products have been created by technology specialists, their marketing content should be crafted by copywriting specialists. We have specialists in a number of fields, and providing copywriting services for technology companies helps bring clarity to an industry where simple, straightforward content can be hard to achieve.

More from us

Find out more about our work in the tech sector here: Technology
Read more from Alice: How the language of debate can be harmful – from the perspective of a copywriting agency in Bristol
Read more from Colm: Technology copywriting: demystifying the language of tech

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