We all do it – make assumptions about what other people know, understand, support or believe.

But when you’re writing for websites, for publications, for clients – for anyone really – that can be fatal.

Assume the audience knows more than it does, and you’ll have them scratching their heads. Tell them what they already know and they’ll switch off.

To beat the “assumption trap” when you’re writing,

  1. Know your audience
    Your readers are usually dictated by the publication – they come to your website because you are promoting a product or business, they read particular publications because they’re interested in the topic, they read your CV because they want to know about you…
     
  2. Know what you want to tell them
    What are the key elements they have to know? Where do you want them to start? How will you take them through the topic, the website or the proposal? What do you want them to do?
     
  3. Include enough background to put what you’re saying in context
    People’s memories or impressions aren’t always accurate – they may have got the details from someone else, they may not know about updates that changed the original scenario, or they may just be plain wrong. Good background is brief, accurate and relevant.
     
  4. Keep it simple and to the point
    People reading your material, website, or proposal are often time-poor so keep your writing simple and to the point. If they stop reading part-way through, you need to ensure they’ve got the key points early.

Don’t assume people know the topic or their knowledge is correct – give them context

Don’t assume people will agree with what you’re saying – make your case simply and clearly

Don’t assume people will read to the end – get the key information in first

Here’s the point – making assumptions is guessing. Do your research and get it right, because when you break it down ASSUME is an acronym for making an Ass out of U and ME.

_____

Chris Peters is a professional writer and copy editor.

Visit his website - www.chrispeters.co.nz