Content that addresses the needs of an audience is the best way to draw their attention. Engineers are no exception. So what do engineers care about? What do they value, and what are their concerns? Think carefully before answering. If your responses include a respect for logic or the desire to solve problems, then you’re on the right track! From the perspective of this engineer, the following points serve well to connect their needs with yours.
Approach Problems Directly
An engineer with a question doesn’t want to read far before finding an answer. Hiding information doesn’t drive curiosity so much as it forces a loss of interest. Of course, readers that have no interest in your content won’t be coming back if they can avoid it. You do want them to come back, right?
Be upfront with the information that readers seek. [Tweet it] Once their questions are answered, use sincere and relevant transitions to the rest of your content. Readers will naturally focus more on your writing because their own issues no longer hold all of the attention.
Engineers Like Data
It shouldn’t surprise you that engineers enjoy numbers. Use this to your advantage! Create content that appeals to data-driven personalities by finding links between your message, supportive evidence (ideally unique), and the reader’s personal needs. Some data sources can fit in with a variety of messages, like:
- Showing historical savings or earnings statistics from using your product
- Explaining practical day-to-day benefits to your customer (e.g. time saved)
- Providing an industry breakdown of your audience
- Highlighting specific applications where your product shines
In all of the above cases, work with actual numbers for the biggest impact. Even if you only make some simple calculations to back up your claim, a curious engineer will crunch the given numbers and evaluate the situation for themselves.
Injecting opinions into writing is fine, but always qualify them as opinions. This is especially true when writing for an audience of engineers. Failing to acknowledge the subjectivity of opinions gives rise to wariness on the part of the reader. [Tweet it] Properly distinguishing facts from beliefs reduces the possibility of misinterpretation. Similarly, remove vague and unsubstantiated claims from your writing. Not only does this cut fluff, it gives more weight to your main points.
Another benefit of writing objectively is how well it translates into authenticity. Because we each hold personal opinions, we’re used to expressing them. As a result, writing subjectively against your beliefs is generally more difficult than objectively discussing a list of benefits or drawbacks. Even marketing companies like Bazaarvoice recognize the importance of authenticity. Readers pick up on subtle differences in word choice, and a lack of authenticity negatively affects their attitude towards content.
Reference Reliable Sources
When referencing sources, try to provide context and verify the relevancy of the claim. “Making Content Engineers Care About” means making content that they want to come back to. Although everyone wants information from reliable sources, engineers pay keen attention to and will often verify information they find in articles. Personally, I almost always read through a linked abstract if a scientific study is referenced. It imparts more credibility to the claim and gives me peace of mind when a claim is properly sourced. Anecdotally, I would consider this is an engineer thing (or at least a scientist thing).
But why do we do that? Simply put, we’re used to it. Engineers carry the responsibility of properly designing various functional aspects of our lives, from planes to bridges to software. Because lives and livelihoods can be at stake, internal verification and external validation play a large part in the engineering product development cycle. Making decisions based on faulty data in engineering can end disastrously, so engineers are unlikely to care about content that betrays those values.
Keep It Simple
Professional technical writing uses clear and concise writing to assist in understanding complex topics. Industry jargon and overcomplicated word choices are common in scientific writing, but that doesn’t mean they get the point across. Replace long words with shorter ones that have the same meaning, and use active voice whenever possible. After all, your most important goal should be to communicate with your reader, not to show off your wide vocabulary.
Instead of: “Our experimental results failed to substantiate the improvement of daily lifestyle practices through utilization of a remote control.”
Try: “Our experimental results do not prove that using a remote control improves daily life.”
This does not mean you need to remove all industry jargon from your writing. Sometimes the jargon is the best descriptor to an audience familiar with it. Since your goal is ultimately to be straightforward and unambiguous, recognize what “excessive” looks like.
Everybody wants content to be fulfilling and easy-to-read, engineers included. They will be the ones who search the content for practical solutions to their problems. Enable your readers by giving them unique, directly applicable information that relates to their interests.
5-Star Writer Jonathan L has experience writing blog posts, technical documentation, and scientific texts. He is currently pursuing a certificate in technical communications and holds degrees in Chemical Engineering, as well as a number of patents.
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