Who loves you, baby? (Who is your audience?)

Esperance Beaches, Australia

By Rebecca Feinstein, Technical Writer

This article can be found in the Society for Technical Communication Orange County Chapter’s Techniscribe newsletter. In this article, Rebecca explains how business writing differs from technical writing.

My friend, Shauna, and I were discussing the topic of getting technical people to understand business writing. As we were trading war stories, we both realized that we experienced great frustration in trying to get technical people to not overload non-technical people with information or details to get their points across.

Technical people don’t realize that giving too much information just blows the average business professional away. Business writing covers so much of a project, than the technical writing part. Business writing needs to cover topic highlights with brief summaries, or bullets of what is going on with the pertaining topic.

A computer programmer I knew well, insisted on giving detailed information to his listeners, ALL THE INFORMATION. What he didn’t notice were the attempts to get away from some audience members, nor the glazed eyes those trapped by his diatribe. He failed to realize that no everyone is a programmer, analyst or other type of technical person (that’s about 85% of the overall population).

In two (2) to six (6) keywords per bullet, three (3) to five (5) bullet points:

  • What is your primary product or service
  • Your product or service benefits or unique qualities
  • Price or value of your product or service
  • Where or who could use your product or service, such as location or type of customer

‘Techies’ need detailed information because as much as it is part of their profession, as most of them are just hardwired for this information. Business people need the highlights and only key information. This is information is usually what is presented to investors, customers and other members who have a financial stake in the company.

Here’s an example, using a web content writing business. The business name and contact information appears above and below the following items.

  • Create websites for technology and engineering companies
  • Works with existing or new websites
  • Organizes and writes text for your website
  • Loads text, pictures and files onto your website
  • Less expensive than using your full-time staff

In the one of the web pages inside your site, you can get into more detail. A good example is the XYZ Company is developing a new product. The technical people conceptualize about the product and write about functionality, design, material specifications, operational functions, etc. All of this is done with great attention to detail and information regarding the development, manufacturing and support of the product.

With regard to this same project, the business writing covers items like cost testing (the cost of product materials from a variety of vendors), and consumer expectations regarding the product. The company’s marketing department would contribute to the business writing by creating user analysis groups and writing the findings on that to fine-tune the consumer’s expectations of the product.

In a website, a business person is looking for three (3) to five (5) phrases or short sentences for each topic:

  • Who is going to buy the service or product?
  • What features does the buyer expect?
  • How much might the manufacturing cost? — and how much might the product retail or sell for?
  • When will this product go to market?
  • Is there any other company with a similar product?

Later, in a separate document (even a downloadable PDF), write a white paper on the service or product. At this point you can mix business writing topics such as reports on manufacturing costs, material suppliers, project management reports, business plans, company  policies and procedures, marketing research, product research, user analysis, user testing with technical information.

A very important distinction to make is that all writing pertaining to the product is important, both the technical and business writing, each side’s contribution is important to the success of the business. Details are important to each area of the business that contributes to the whole. However, the audience that business writing caters to needs only to cover the highlights of each topic. If people want more information, they’ll usually ask for it. This reiterates the basic rule of technical and business writing, know who your audience is!

Edited by Shauna McGee Kinney, Technology Writer

Rebecca Feinstein - Technical Writer Rebecca Feinstein is a technical writer. Rebecca and Shauna worked together while members of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) Los Angeles Chapter during 2000 to 2003. Rebecca is actively involved as the 2012 Secretary of the Orange County chapter of STC. She works as a contract editor and writer for public utility companies, medical and insurance companies in Los Angeles and Orange County, California.

Her skills include documenting business procedures and proprietary business software. She works with PerthWrite editing copy for business and engineering companies in Alaska, California and Perth. Rebecca has a practical sense of writing. She respectfully preserves and streamlines the words her clients use. More information is available about Rebecca’s services at http://feinwriting.com/