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Making Complex Topics Digestible for a Mainstream Audience

How to make complex topics digestible

All too often, internet content can make the reader’s eyes glaze over because it’s too complex. Unfortunately, content like this can turn away your audience. While complex or technical content may work for people in your industry, it’s usually not the best bet when you want to reach a mainstream audience.

Instead, it’s important to make your mainstream content simple to understand and apply. That may be easy if you’re writing about lifestyle or other simple topics, but what if your content is based on a topic that’s dense or technical? Let’s talk about how to make complex topics digestible for your readers.

Problems in Complex Content

Image via Flickr by Armel Le Coz

You may be writing about a high-level topic, but that doesn’t mean your content should be confusing or complicated. When you’re talking to a mainstream audience, you should be trying to simplify and explain your topic.

What are some of the ways you are making your content too complex? You might be making one of these mistakes:

Taking Your Knowledge for Granted

When you specialize in an area, you may lose sight of the fact that other people don’t know everything you do about the topic. But your knowledge is what makes you the expert! Your readers are coming to learn from you, so most likely they don’t understand everything you’re saying.

What to Do: If you’re very comfortable with your specialty, it might seem strange to think that people know little about your topic. But think of a topic you don’t know much about. Maybe you are experienced in computers but don’t know a thing about baking cupcakes. If you were to read a how-to on baking cupcakes, you wouldn’t want it to assume you know all the tools and techniques. You’d want it to start from the beginning and help you understand the topic. Do the same for your reader.

Using Technical Jargon

Are you including terms and acronyms common to your industry in your content? This is one way of taking your knowledge for granted and not connecting with your audience. Sure, your readers could look up the words, but forcing them to decipher your content could push them away.

What to Do: When you write content, describe concepts in simple terms instead of using technical jargon. For the most part, try to write in a conversational way instead of being formal. Make sure a beginner or intermediate audience will be able to follow along with you. Also, you can be the liaison between your reader and technical research by simplifying the research for them. When you do introduce technical terms, explain them using plain language. Spell out what an acronym stands for the first time you use it. At the very least, provide links or hover popups that explain a term.

Including Too Much Information

You might be making a piece of content more complicated than it needs to be by going into too many things at once. Are you trying to explain five things about your topic in one article? When you try to include too much, content can get confusing and overwhelming for your audience.

What to Do: See if you can break down your information to fully explain one thing at a time. Think about the one major thing you want your readers to remember and make that the focus of your piece. Rather than explaining many different things, go into different parts of that one thing, providing in-depth information and examples.

Ways to Present Your Information

You can simplify your content by the way you present it. Here are some ways to do that:

Use Formatting

The way you describe an idea is not the only way to make it clear to your audience. The formatting on the page also matters. When readers see long blocks of text taking up the whole page, they are not likely to want to read the information.

It seems more manageable to the reader when you break text down into smaller paragraphs with a lot of white space. Use headings and tools such as bullet points to make the information skimmable and easy to follow.

Give Examples

It’s easier to understand a concept when there are examples of how the concept can be applied. You could provide your reader with made-up examples that illustrate your point or share real-life examples. When your readers see a concept applied to a real-world scenario, they will better understand how they can apply it themselves.

Context also helps. Frame the information and examples to fit your specific audience. You’ll help your audience relate to the idea. For example, if you wanted to explain how your software could streamline a company’s operations, you might tell the higher-ups at a company about how it will save the company money and make workers more efficient. But if you were talking about the same software to the employees who would be using it, you would show how it would make their everyday lives easier.

Show What You Mean

Sometimes, a reader just won’t be able to wrap their head around what the text is trying to say. It takes a picture to make the idea click in their mind. Make things easier on your audience by using images to show what you’re writing about. You have different visual content options you could use, such as photos, illustrations, infographics, or videos.

Understand Your Audience

Try to learn more about your audience so you can connect with them. You’ll be able to explain better if you get an idea of how much knowledge your readers have about your topic, how they learn best, and what context and examples they can relate to. When you’re writing, think about where your audience is coming from rather than your own experiences.

When you’re explaining a complex topic to a mainstream audience, try to keep it simple. Remember that no one knows everything and that everyone has to start somewhere. Use everyday language to explain the topic, and don’t take your knowledge for granted. After all, if everyone knew as much as you, they wouldn’t need your expert content!

About the author

Sharon Therien

Sharon Therien is a freelance writer in Florida. She provides content and copy to support clients' marketing goals, and she studies digital marketing, especially inbound.