You’re on a plane trying to finish up a presentation or a document for a potential customer and you’ve got great ideas, but they’re not coming together into a cohesive piece of information.
Here are some common editing questions and answers to make your content look and sound clear and professional:
My content is full of industry-related, technical acronyms, and it looks confusing. When do I need to define an acronym and when can I use the abbreviation?
General rules say that an acronym or abbreviation should be defined on first reference, unless that definition reduces clarity of the subject. When you’re writing industry-specific content to a targeted audience, you can leave those acronyms undefined in headlines, captions, and bulleted lists, but define them on first reference in your body text.
Your readers will scan through your titles or headlines, captions, and bulleted lists, and if the information is what they think they are looking for, they’ll get the full information (including definitions) in the overview.
It is also likely that if someone has a question about an acronym that is included in a bulleted list, they will look into the further details on the page to read about where the features are explained.
We offer products that have technical specifications. How do we display these specifications in a bulleted list?
Bulleted lists are great for product or service specifications as they give your reader an indication that you are providing specific details. Here are five tips to remember when you’re creating a bulleted list:
1. Maintain parallel sentence structure.
Each of your bullet points should begin with the same type of phrase. They could all start with verbs (“Maintain parallel sentence structure” “Keep bullets brief”) or with adjectives (“150x improvement” “Easy-to-use interface”)
2. Keep bullet statements brief.
Strive to make your bulleted statements less than one line of text. The points are meant to be brief.
3. Use numerals for all numbers, acronyms for phrases that have them, and abbreviations for measurements.
In bulleted lists, don’t spell out numbers, unnecessarily long phrases, or measurements. This will help keep technical bullets brief.
4. Capitalize the first letter of each bullet statement.
Capitalization will help you maintain consistency across all bulleted lists. Capitalizing the first letter of all bulleted phrases will also avoid the inconsistency you would encounter if you started some bullets with a proper (capitalized) product name and the rest of the bullets with a lowercase letter.
5. Omit the period at the end of each statement.
Leaving out the period at the end of each bulleted statement will help you keep statements brief. Without a period, you’re less inclined to ramble your bullet statement into a long, full sentence.
I need to communicate the value that we provide in a specific service. How do I organize and communicate my thoughts?
Use the tactic that journalists are taught to use on you in the professional media. Clearly tell your audience:
- Who receives the service
- What is included in the service
- When the service would take place
- Where the service would take place
- Why they need your service
- How they get or arrange for the service
- Any other relevant information about the service
Where do I look for more editing rules?
After that, Wikipedia is a great resource for anyone creating content. Because Wikipedia is edited by the masses, it provides some of the most accurate definitions for technical terms, and provides insight into acronyms and measurements.
Lastly and most importantly, you’re going to want your own Corporate Style Guide to ensure that the look and feel of your company is consistent across all platforms and messages. To learn more on this topic, read “Part 1: Four Reasons Your Content Needs a Corporate Style Guide.”
Here is an excerpt:
“The goal of editing content (link to content page on trew website) is to increase clarity. Corporations and organizations looking to further their business and their brand rely on Corporate Style Guides to provide valuable, clear content to their specific, targeted audiences. There are four benefits to editing with a Corporate Style Guide…”