As a copywriter and generalist, I love writing about things I know nothing about. I love to write on topics I find really difficult to get my head around first and then write about them. There’s nothing more satisfying to me than writing about seemingly obscure topics as the bathtub reliability curve, and realising that I’ve not only made sense of it to myself, I’ve made a difficult topic easier to understand for others.
I’ve lost count of how many subjects I’ve written on over the years, a lot of which I’ve not had a full understanding of at the beginning. Subjects as diverse and as numbingly boring to some as gamma knife treatment, various types of building work, electric and plumbing, CCTV drain surveys (that was fun) and lots of others.
How do you write about things that you nothing about and sound intelligent? - Writing about things you know nothing about has its obstacles, I mean how do you write about something complicated, something you know nothing about and make it seem interesting? How do you get to the point where you understand it yourself? If you're paid to write about subjects you know a great deal about, or things that you feel passionate about, then you’re halfway there. However, when you're a generalist writing about different subjects, some of which you know nothing about at all, it can be a real challenge.
Research your subject - Research is your friend. Knowing where to look and finding those golden nuggets of information, be it articles, information guides, research papers, factual bullets or wiki pages (yes, some of them are accurate), also good. I usually find that general internet research is a blessing in comparison to how things were before the internet age took off. Finding something that’s relatively unknown, or just a seemingly unpopular topic is much easier with Google than it would be trawling through shelves of books, or through the electronic catalogue of your local library/university library.
Fact check - Always fact check what you’ve found, just because you find a couple of articles that say something pretty impressive about a certain aspect of the subject you're researching doesn’t mean it’s always right. Look elsewhere, and make sure you’ve got it absolutely correct, if you know of someone else who knows more, ask them to proofread it.
Who’s your audience - I usually find that if I want to write with authority and accuracy then it helps if I have a good idea of who I’m writing for, their exposure to the subject, and their level of knowledge, this in turn helps me to determine how much I need to know before I start writing.
You’ll need to adapt your vocabulary to their level of comprehension and understanding, and you want to write something that resonates with your audience and not leave them feeling confused. That takes time and effort to achieve, but it’s worthwhile.
Don’t come across as a know it all, when you know nothing - Although you want to write as if you know what you’re talking about, never try to come across as an expert, so don’t overextend yourself. You want to avoid ineffectual comments, but at the same time not fill it with so much convoluted jargon that it makes sense to anyone.
Succinct - Be as succinct as you can be, and remember who your audience is, and who you’re writing for. An ability to connect with your audience is crucial if you want the article or blog to be a success. You do get more confident the more you do it, and there’s nothing more satisfying than having learnt something new, and then being able to write about it in a such way that it makes perfect sense to others.
Not only is it a challenge, but for me it makes my job that much more interesting. I'm learning something new almost every day and adding to my knowledge bank, and knowledge my friends, is power.