By Cathy Dew
An employee intranet can be a great vehicle to communicate everything from changes in corporate leadership or policies to where the company Christmas party is going to be held. It provides a chance to offer kudos for staff accomplishments and to help professionals stay up to speed on innovations in your industry.
Depending on your organization’s needs, an intranet can house your company newsletter, flash urgent need-to-know-now bulletins, and be the portal for providing continuing education information.
Your intranet is the easiest and fastest way to get your employees the information they need when they need it in an organized, searchable, findable and visually appealing fashion.
But regardless of how much time you spent with your information architect pinpointing personas, creating journey maps, maximizing usability, and chunking information so it is intuitively findable, nobody is going to read a word that you publish unless your content is both readable and purposeful.
Three Tips For Creating Readable Prose With a Purpose
Principles of user experience-centric design demand that you put your employees front and center when creating an intranet. But while your ultimate intranet design may rate high on the usability scale, UX also demands that the information offered be readable, purposeful, and tailored to its intended audience.
The following tips will help you create the right intranet style while commanding credibility.
Tip #1: Write in Inverted Pyramid Style
The inverted pyramid style of writing is widely used by journalists. In a nutshell, inverted pyramid writing refers to front-loading an article with the most important information first (the top of the upside down pyramid). The journalist then provides explanatory and supporting details in the order of most significant to least important.
According to studies, using inverted pyramid style in an intranet setting improves comprehension while allowing users to understand the main points you are trying to convey without having to spend too much time reading. Users can quickly get the gist of an article and then decide whether to continue down the pyramid for additional detailed information.
Here is how to fashion your intranet writing into an inverted pyramid:
- Identify the key need-to-know points – Who? What? When? Where? Why? – you want to get across and summarize them. This goes in your first section.
- Prioritize the story details and supporting information.
- Write a broad brushed overview of the details and supporting information and then get more granular as you proceed down the page.
- Use short paragraphs, bullets, white space, and subheadings to keep copy visually appealing and to add movement to the piece.
Tip #2: Use Jargon, But Only When It Makes Sense
While using plain clear language is the default method for online writing, with an employee intranet you may find yourself writing for a specific audience where industry jargon is not only accepted, but also expected.
Here are some questions to consider in determining whether and how much to tailor the copy to the audience:
Does your audience consist of professionals or others who share a common vocabulary?
It is important that all of your readers understand what you are saying. The last thing you want to do is leave some of your audience out. So if you are writing for a group of people who share a vocabulary, by all means feel free to incorporate their jargon into your copy. If you risk alienating your audience, however, opt for more general ways of communicating your message.
Would avoiding jargon actually make your copy lose credibility with your audience because it would position you as an outsider?
Sometimes the failure to use jargon can actually reduce your audience and your credibility. If properly using terms of art goes hand-in-hand with establishing your credibility as a provider of knowledge, then by all means, jargon-write away!
Will the use of jargon help capture and keep your readers’ interest by speeding up the reading process?
Spelling every shorthand term and acronym out can slow down the reader’s ability to glide through copy quickly, and could cause them to navigate away from your article altogether. If your audience is going to understand your abbreviations, use them STAT!
Tip #3: Always Be Credible
Nothing will cause an intranet user to bypass a written piece faster than the perception that content credibility is lacking.
Whether you are writing copy for highly educated or specialized users or are attempting to capture the interest of every person at every level of your company, follow these recommendations to increase the credibility of your content:
- Tone it down. Keep the tone of your content factual and free from unnecessary fluff. Avoid using innuendo and making vague assertions. Users can see through hype. Overstating issues or ballooning outcomes diminishes credibility.
- Stick to what you know. Nothing shakes the foundation of credibility more than non-experts who offer up information on topics in which they are not experts. If you are going to write about a specific area requiring expertise, make sure to have a subject matter expert review your copy. Better yet, tap into your intranet champions who have the subject matter credentials to ensure that your content is current and correct.
- Just the facts. Lead with data and facts and provide proof for your statements. While presenting too many facts and findings can make content harder to comprehend, providing too little information undermines credibility. Get the help of an intranet writing expert if you aren’t sure how to balance credibility and brevity.
- Date it. Show the dates for both time-sensitive information and for evergreen information. Items that lack a date indicator are often bypassed as lacking credibility. Let your readers know if the information you are providing is hot-off-the-presses or has stood the test of time.
Let 2Plus2 Make Your Intranet Content Shine
The intranet design and development experts at 2Plus2 understand that compelling copy is integral to the success of every employee intranet project. Our information architects and designers work hand-in-hand with writers and domain experts to ensure that every element of your intranet supports your organization’s messaging goals.
To learn more about how to weave copy considerations into intranet design, give me a call at 510-652-7700 or contact us online.