Know who you are writing for

It is very difficult to put yourself inside the head of your customer. Unless you’re a brain surgeon, but that’s not what we mean.

The most effective writing, whether you’re looking to inform, educate or persuade someone, must be written with them in mind. So before you start writing anything, make sure you know who you expect to read your words.

Newspaper journalists famously are asked to write at a level that a 10 year old can understand. Professionals use their own jargon when talking between themselves, but any writing for people outside the field needs to be jargon free and in easy to understand chunks. Any absolutely essential jargon must be explained in layman’s terms.

In the field of persuasive writing, often the most effective writing is based very closely on what happy customers have actually said themselves. Their explanations are likely to be more relevant and pertinent for people like them, people we’re guessing you’d like more of (this is the concept of the ‘perfect client’).

So, before you write anything at all, work out exactly who you expect to read your words. Visualise them, or even write for a real person, if they are a patient or client of yours. Then, once you have written your copy, re-read it as if you were that person and rephrase anything you think they might have difficulty understanding.

This applies, whether you are writing a children’s book or a PhD thesis, or anything in between.

PS sometimes this means you have to break grammatical rules if you’re aiming for a more conversational style. Winston Churchill would not have like the title of this post.  He would have preferred ‘Know for whom you are writing’.  But that is a title up with which we would not put.

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