Writing online for a general audience without watering down your expertise – four tips you can use today.

If you’re anything like my client Julie, then you might find yourself asking this question:

‘I know a shedload about my topic, but my audience is starting from zero. I don’t want to water down my message. What do I do?’

Here are a few strategies that have helped me:

1) Include stories to exemplify concepts.

While I was living in Germany as a twenty-something student, I once asked for a helicopter in a DIY shop rather than for a screwdriver. The shopkeeper and another customer fell about laughing (as did I once I’d realised what was going on). I’ll never forget those two words (Hubschrauber and Schraubenzieher). This is a story I sometimes use to illustrate how making mistakes in language learning is a crucial part of the process.

A shop keeper in a German DIY shop after I asked him for a helicopter
Use stories to explain concepts

The stories you tell don’t always have to be pivotal moments in your life. They can also be short or humorous anecdotes about everyday experiences.

2) Start with ONE aspect of what you know.

In other words, don’t try to put 20 years of expertise into one blog post (I’ve seen it). Can you provide an introductory post and break down one idea into smaller parts and have several different posts?

Think about writing one post for beginners in your subject area, and perhaps another more advanced post.

For example, in this post, I’ve given an overview of writing for a general audience. I can then refer readers who want to know more about writing stories to another post on using a story framework based on casual conversation.

3) Use analogies to explain concepts, categories or arguments.

E.g. ‘You wouldn’t expect to run a marathon without ever doing any shorter runs, so why would you expect to write a perfect book straightaway? Use your blog, emails and articles as a safe training space for the big event.’

Marathon runners: Use your blog as a training ground for the marathon of book writing
Use your blog as a training ground for the marathon of book writing

4) Think about whether your reader wants, or needs to know the technical term. If yes, then explain it.

Remember—Google likes texts that are written for a reading age of 11-15.

So use short sentences and words where possible.

You’re not dumbing down – you’re meeting your reader where they are now and providing the scaffolding to get them where they need to be.

Provide the info on a need-to-know basis.

Above all, just take the pressure off and get writing!

And, if you have any unfortunate language learning stories, then comment below and let me know.

Published by Dr Lizzy Tanguay

Editor | Writer | Writing Coach | Applied Linguist

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