Assumption and Comprehension No Nos

In last month’s Content Queen, we talked about making assumptions about what your audience may or may not know. We mentioned – and can’t stress enough – the importance of knowing your audience. Is it general consumers you are trying to attract? Is it current customers who are familiar with you? Is it industry insiders who are well versed in the language of your business?

If your audience is prospective customers, be especially careful of being too technical. If it’s industry insiders, you have a little more leeway because they probably are familiar with the language. Existing customers fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

You don’t want to turn your readers off by making your content too technical or overloaded with jargon and industry-speak. You’re sure to lose their attention. Alternatively, you don’t want to make it so basic that people feel like you are talking down to them. They’ll likely move on, assuming that they already know whatever it is you are trying to convey.

The use of acronyms is a common area were people make assumptions about their audience. To be safe, avoid using acronyms without spelling out what they mean. On first reference, spell out the full name and put the acronym in parentheses. Your readers will thank you. Examples:

  • Canadian Anti Spam Law (CASL)
  • Department of Justice (DOJ)
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

And now, some recent examples from the Infinity Direct blog:

The following paragraph assumed that readers knew what express consent and implied consent are. Because this was going on our blog – which is not just to be read by people who know about digital consent – the two bold sentences were added to clarify the meaning for a more general audience:

You should have already implemented measures to collect express consent on all registration vehicles and forms. Express consent is when someone takes action to check a box to give you permission to send them digital communications. Moving forward, if you didn’t collect consent at the time the contact information was acquired when they purchased from you or made an inquiry, you have a bit of time during the implied consent period to gain express consent. Implied consent is when someone buys something from you or makes an inquiry where there is a time period you’re allowed to send digital communications.

The following paragraph was made more accessible to our general audience by using a parenthetical definition in the first sentence and by offering an analogy to explain a more technical concept:

Many companies have large data warehouses with an abundance of data, but there is often very little metadata (data that provides key information about the data) to ensure the data is used correctly. There are often only a handful of analysts who know the correct joins, what key conditions must be applied or what has changed in the data over time. Many analysts are simply providing misleading data sets. A simple analogy may help with my last statement: What is the answer to the following equation: 6 x 2 – 2 x 4? If you answered 40, then you didn’t know you need to apply the order of operations to the data. The answer is actually 4. The equation really should be thought of as (6 x 2) – (2 x 4). Without the knowledge of the order of operations mathematical rule, 40 sure seems logical. With data, answers are often obtained; however, are the answers correct?

Finding the balance that is appropriate for your audience is critical. Make sure you keep that in mind before and during the writing process. Also make sure you are mindful of this during the editing and proofreading process. The goal, of course, is to keep people reading.

Amy Fischer • March 30, 2018

Previous Post

Next Post