Language Matters: What Your Writers Hear When You Speak

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Here’s a secret about writers: most of us are somewhat neurotic and almost all of us overanalyze things. Not surprisingly, this leads to some anxiety and possible miscommunication, when clients provide instructions through online systems or email. While things such as keyword requirements, word counts, and subject matter are fairly straightforward, some instructions are rife for misunderstandings.

Make it Funny

When clients ask for humor in a piece, many writers panic. How much humor? What type of humor? Is biting sarcasm okay, or does the client want something silly and family-friendly? Am I actually a funny person? These are just some of the things that go through writers’ minds when clients tell them to “make it funny.”

Because humor is subjective, help your writer get the tone you want by providing links to samples of work you like. Whether these are blog posts on your own site or something you read online, a sample gives a writer an idea of what you mean by “humor”; otherwise, writers have to fallback on their own definition.

Technical Writer

Generally, a technical writer is someone who creates documentation designed to help people use products. Technical writers create things such as product manuals, user guides, white papers, and training materials — this is what writers think when clients list projects as “technical copy.” If what you require is marketing copy about a technical product, try listing projects as “marketing copy” for a specific subject. You’ll be more likely to attract writers who have both marketing experience and an understanding of the product.

Write for [insert site here]

Sites or services such as Wikipedia, HubPages, and PRWeb have specific writing guidelines. Asking writers to write content for or similar to those pages is like giving a cue to ignore other style requirements in favor of the style guides published by the page in question. If you want something different, spell it out in instructions.

Make it Conversational

Conversational pieces usually read like the writer is talking to the reader as a friend. Writing is done in the second person, with the use of words like “you” and “your.” Some clients ask for conversational writing when they really want easy-to-read third person copy for a general audience. In such cases, ask the writer to create third-person copy for individuals who may be unfamiliar or new to the niche.

Expert Copy

Most writers assume when a client asks for expert copy that their intended audience are well-versed in the subject. Writers won’t take time to explain basic concepts, but will jump directly into complex issues or subjects. To avoid content that doesn’t work for your audience, let writers know who that audience is instead of asking for things such as “basic” or “expert” copy.

Creating clear, concise instructions helps your writer hear what you meant to convey. Instructions don’t have to be super long — in fact, too-long instructions set you up for a different problem. Just take a few minutes to further define words or requirements that could be subjective in nature.

Sarah S definitely overanalyzes things, but her analytical skills often come in handy for clients who want technical writing or statistic-laden articles.


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