Technical writing is often thought of as proposal writing or instructional writing. However, the principles taught for technical writing span across many industries, especially the creative. Here are just three “technical” lessons that you should consider when writing for a website or a quick ad.
1. Give Me Active, Or Give Me Death
Verbs can be expressed in active or passive voice. Active voice is a subject, verb, object formula. It’s more direct. And when we’re dealing with the need to reach audiences that are swamped by advertising daily, I would argue that being direct is the most important thing we can do as marketers. Passive voice, by contrast, is very often elusive and difficult to understand. By its nature, passive voice creates longer strings of words and gives you no responsible party for the action mentioned. Remember: clarity is key.
2. The Right Tone Zone
Many people confuse voice, tone and personas. So, let’s clear the air on what these things are, so we can accurately understand tone. Tone is more of an attitude about a subject, whereas persona is the voice a writer creates. And voice is often used interchangeably with tone. The only difference is voice, in a literary sense, refers to the truthfulness or authority of the author. Allow me to borrow this quote from my former professor, Dr. Hirst: “The best way to understand tone, I think, is to regard it as the servant of persona.”
So, why worry about tone? Because it links directly with everything. Tone will define your attitude, whether or not you use jargon, what words you use … everything! So—to make a short story long—find the right tone for clients.
3. Writing Ethically
In advertising, audiences vary greatly. With that variance comes the need to write ethically; meaning our words need to be true, helpful and inoffensive. That’s why we research before we start projects. It’s so important to not offend your audience in advertising, either intentionally or unintentionally. Do you say hearing impaired or deaf? That's a very important conversation to those who are deaf. Being inclusive isn’t hard, but you have to know the difference between these words and what they mean in respect to the people who are inclusive of them. Gender-neutrality can spare you some time as well. Humankind, doctor, police officer, nurse, chair, home maker; not mankind, lady doctor, policeman, male nurse, chairman, housewife. For clarity on certain issues, refer to your stylebook—The Associated Press, for example.
There are so many more technical writing lessons on coherency, punctuation, word usage and more. But I’ll leave those for you to find. Just know that the advertising world is constantly adapting, so make sure your writing principles are up-to-date. Link up with professionals that have the cognizance you desire. And as always, Designsensory is here to help anyone with questions about advertising in any context. Go use those new skills!