B-to-B Insights: Technical Know-How
In that case, I may suggest that I email him questions and he, in turn, can email me his replies. Often, technical people who cannot speak English well can write decently—perhaps a result of the rise of email, which forces people who might not otherwise do so to write often.
At times, the email replies are so clear I can almost cut and paste them right into my copy.
If the answers are still unclear, I rewrite, in plain English and to the best of my understanding, and then email my rewrite back to the SME for review. Usually, the SME makes a few minor edits and, after that, that text is ready to use.
6. Use Wikipedia—With Caution
You can't wholly rely on information in Wikipedia to be accurate, because amateurs compile it. However, I've found that entries on technical terms usually start off with a clear, plain-English definition of the term, which is invaluable for gaining a quick understanding of what a thing is and its usage.
When you are researching statistics to augment your copy—for example, the date the laser was invented or the speed of sound in a vacuum—most clients, in my experience, want a better source than Wikipedia. Websites also are an iffy source when you don't know who is running them, as are blogs. I prefer citing an article in a respected industry or scientific journal.
7. Get Smart
If you are going to be writing about a product or technology on an ongoing basis, it makes sense to get some additional education on the topic.
An ad agency president told me he assigned one of his account executives to handle an industrial welding account. On his own, the account executive took night school courses in welding, eventually becoming a certified welder.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.