Content with the Technical: Style and Tactic— a Field Guide for Effective Communication

When considering market copy at nearly any source— from the highest end of luxury vehicles to the simplest product records found on Amazon, a style guide ultimately drives sales, increases continuity, and increases user experience!

That all sounds fantastic, I know, but what makes up a complete Style Guide? That is a question with many answers, but with commonalities shared between all of them. For this blog we will focus on a style guide for basic home, garden, and pet products found on Amazon.

This will give us a broad look at the role that style guides take in the professional writing world. Let’s get started with looking at another style guide found online. This one is also published for the exclusive use of producing content for Amazon’s website, but it will give us a great baseline for producing our own unique guides for nearly any project.

The example style guide can be found by navigating here. This particular type of style guide is not limited to written content but stretches into specific image and url coding norms. And unless everyone wants to watch me learn to code or how to take photos— we will just stay in our lane with technical writing.

To begin, you will see that this style guide concerns itself with the product categories: Home, Garden, and Pets. The meat of this guide can be found in the three sections: Title, Key Product Features (bullets), and Product Descriptions. If we are able to master these three sections we will dramatically increase conversion rates turning easy-to-write copy into increased revenue.

I’d like to take a moment to clarify that style guides can be applied to nearly any type of technical, copy, or even narratives. Bullet/description is the most common type of copy-oriented content, and for the purposes of explaining some of the finer points of this process, the easiest to define.

So, to start we have the title or name of our product. These titles are typically attached to a product image. That image will require a file name in order to be plugged into the website’s code. This name, just like your product title, needs to be sensitive to industry specific search engine results— a process called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). This effectively couples the most common searched terms that relate to a product, making it more likely to appear at the top of raw search engine results. This will help you effectively title your product entries as well as the file name with the associated product image.

As a general rule-of-thumb, I like to practice economical writing. What I mean by that is simple– less is always more. So try to be lean with your title, while adhering to the capitalization norms and character counts depicted in the Amazon breakdown.

Moving on to bullet descriptions, here is an opportunity for many organizations to build an identity through their writing. The rules for bullets are quite simple and offer a large character count limit. This gives the writer the “freedom” to create short, hard-hitting bullet points that don’t use up the entire character limit, or produce dense, info-laden bullets that use up every available character. I’m partial to the shorter, but less informative bullet style, but both work well in various industries. My only real warning that I will give to this overview is to stay consistent. It can be frustrating to any shopper going through numerous product pages to encounter copy content that is wildly different between pages. A consistent bullet point helps create that polished aesthetic.

Descriptions make up the hardest section to draft content for, namely as it is the largest section of any product page. If you were to look through your browsing history for the various products you’ve searched— you’d notice that the differences between one product’s description and another can be quite large. The reason for this is pretty simple, there aren’t many strict rules for how to sell something. Just stay under the character count limit. More, the industry of your product will heavily influence the type of descriptions you draft.

I have noticed a shift away from typical paragraph content breakdowns and a move towards more expansive bullet points. This actually makes a lot of sense if you think about shrinking-attentions and the overwhelming volume of available content out there. If you can say it in a bullet, you should. Communication channels have never been easier to open up, but grabbing someone’s attention— that’s a true challenge. 

And economical, low word count writing is the vehicle to get you there.

Next week we will wrap up this topic by showing some examples of specific content, where we will look at a few products and try to come up with the best ways to produce high-yield copy. This will also move us into our next topic… wait for it… editing!

As always, if you like what I am sharing here, please consider sharing this with a friend who you think might be interested in learning the best practices for technical and copy writing. Subscribe for free weekly updates, EVERY SUNDAY MORNING! Comment with your dislikes, questions, rage, unfettered love, etc! And please like this post, it helps… my self-esteem? I’m not 100% sure to be honest, but it’s fun to run over to my wife and say “look, look I have a new subscriber!”

Also, one more quick note, as some of you may have heard I am getting ready to launch my first podcast titled, “From Tail to Tale”… a comedy podcast about literature where we connect old cannon stories to modern books, TV shows, movies, video games, and more! Join me, Jeffrey Graessley and my co-host, Timothy Hatch as we make fun of all your favorites!

Published by Jeffrey Graessley

Jeffrey Graessley is an R&D technical writer, poet and blogger (right here) @ Content with the Technical! Subscribe for weekly updates every Sunday morning!

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