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Writing your technical press release for every reader

[1]By Deborah Baum, Supervisor, Editorial US West

So you work for a great company and you make an awesome product that can do some really cool stuff, what’s your next step? Getting your name and brand out to the public and letting everyone know what it is your company can do, how you do it, and how remarkably well your products and services will fulfill an industry niche. But wait! Before you jump into all the technical specs of how many bits, bytes, downhole drill meters or parts per million, remember the golden rule of all writing: keep it simple.

Believe it or not, it’s writing advice that is commonly forgotten in the heat of expressing yourself, especially when you have so much that you want to say. Take a step back and examine that last sentence you wrote: Is it filled with numbers, abbreviations, technical terminology and unfamiliar idioms? If so, then it’s time to peruse a few easy strategies to ensure your text doesn’t become engulfed by baffling technical language.

1. Read it out loud. Does it sound OK coming out of your own mouth? Do the sentences and ideas trip off your tongue naturally, or do you feel yourself pausing as you read to puzzle out the concepts that seemed effortless as you wrote them? Are you out of breath before you finish? If any of these things are true, and the words don’t flow smoothly as you read, it’s a sign that you need to try scaling back a little on the information. If you throw out too many facts, figures, statistics and comments, all at once, the reader will get lost in it very quickly, even if they are familiar with the concepts. Make it easy on your reader and introduce everything in a measured way to ensure a thoughtful and perceptive read.

2. Three letters: SVO, take a hint from the English classes you took when you were young and remind yourself about the common parts of speech [2] and sentence construction; do you have the basic Subject-Verb-Object phrasing? While this construction may seem basic, it assures understanding: “the cat sleeps quietly” may seem boring, but it also makes a lot of sense.

3. Do you need a dictionary? How ’bout Google? If even once you need to look up the meaning of a word you’ve written, then you need to find a simpler way to say what it is you mean. A good strategy is to explain the concept to yourself in print. If your personal explanation strikes a chord in your own mind, try using it directly in your text to clarify all of the concepts.

4. Highlight the industry terms on the screen. How many are there? Is most of your screen taken up with color? Try to keep the level of such vocabulary low, if one sentence or paragraph is crowded with them, spread them out a bit with explanations of their meaning to heighten their impact and lessen the swarm.

5. Can you spell all of the concepts you’ve just put down? Some might claim that spellcheck is ruining our character [3], but there are advantages to having enough knowledge of your topic that you don’t need any outside help writing about it. Spellcheck is always a good first reviewer of your work, but keep in mind that it won’t catch all of your mistakes (and may introduce a couple), so if you’re having trouble keeping everything straight — and spelled correctly — then you should probably scale back the scope of your final text.

6. Sometimes the best reviewer of what you’ve written is a person with absolutely no knowledge of the subject. If a layperson can read and understand with ease the substance of your content, then you’ve hit a homerun. Imagine the reader of your work as an archeologist or historian who must puzzle out the meaning with only the text at hand; by giving a full and complete explanation of your subject matter you’ve done a thorough job of getting your message out there.

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the longest lasting [4], too many details and confusing words can crowd the field. By using these tips you can make your text undemanding of the reader thus getting across your ideas in a more worthwhile manner.


Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Part_of_speech [2]

The New Yorker: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2009/09/has-spell-check-ruined-us.html [3]

TED: http://www.ted.com/talks/how_simple_ideas_lead_to_scientific_discoveries.html [4]

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