Ever wondered how specificity in writing can lead to building trust, credibility, and a deeper connection with your readers? Join us as we decode the SPIFIC Editing Code in this episode of Communicate, Connect, Grow.
OSPeas Carl Richards, Jeffrey A. McGuire, Christine Bueller, Chris Fenwick, and Felicity Brand break down this editing code and how it can bring clarity and structure to your writing. Drawing parallels from stand-up comedy, we shed light on how being specific can paint vivid images, thus fostering empathy and connection. We also dive into the reader's perspective, focusing on their pain points to build a stronger relationship.
We also look into the significance of SPFIC for writers and editors—how being specific in your titles, narrative structure, and openings can hook readers and make a stronger impression on them. We'll top this off with examples on how specificity can give rise to an authentic communication style.
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Hi, i'm Carl from OSP and this is Communicate Connect Grow, the OSP podcast. On today's episode, we're talking about addressing reader pain points in your writing with the editing code SPIFIC. If you want to be a more effective writer, a more transparent editor, develop clear strategic thinking or learn from our network of expert friends and colleagues, that's what we're here for. We divide our episodes across three themes communicate, connect and grow. This is a Communicate episode and we're talking about opening with a specific scenario or problem space with our editorial code SPIFIC. The SPIFIC editing code falls into the scope and narrative structure phase of the editing process and it's about being clear what you're writing about. In our documentation about this code, it says make the scenario or problem space SPIFIC instead of vague general claims. Hello.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
Jeffrey A McGuire here again. Please call me Jam If you'd like. I am a founder and partner at Open Strategy Partners. These writing and editing codes came out of me trying to help myself and my colleagues, trying to understand what the heck I was doing when I was messing with their written words. I am a huge fan of stand-up comedy, both from the perspective of consuming it and from the fact that a lot of great stand-up comedy is highly, highly structured, mindful communication. The people who invest in that art are incredible wordsmiths, also maybe actors, and have other skills. But so many of the great stand-up comedians have thought so long and hard and practiced their delivery to make things exactly right. It turns out that it's way funnier to make your punchline about something that's going on with your washing machine to say la, la, la. That's what you get if you use Tide, which is a washing detergent brand, rather than saying washing detergent powder. There's a principle in stand-up comedy that says the more specific you are, the funnier you are. I think it's because it helps people get a really vivid picture in their minds of what you're talking about. Because as soon as someone in the US context, as soon as someone says Tide, boom. You see the logo boom, you smell that. Boom, you remember the color of it? boom, you remember your college laundry room, whatever. When we're specific in technology writing, what we're doing is trying to help people identify themselves and the problems that they're having with the solutions or the products or the services that we are offering or, in the case of OSP, that we're helping our clients with. We often do best when we go after a specific niche. We define very clear personas. All of this comes to a head then in our communications where, instead of saying, hey, if you're doing stuff in the cloud, then why don't you try our stuff? it might be, if you've been running Kubernetes and Docker in this way, then actually switch to Kubernetes plus X or to get a Y benefit. Or it might be better, instead of saying, if I were working for the CK Editor, which is not a client of mine, and I was comparing it maybe to a classic computer environment, it would probably be smarter of me to make a direct comparison of working in Word and then show how we can do the same thing online in CK source, rather than saying you're generic word processing something. I don't know if these are the best examples, but context appropriate for our clients. We find describing things as precisely and specifically as we can ends up generating more empathy, therefore more connection, and people are more likely to convert and download by try whatever it is that we're offering them.Christine Buehler:
I'm Christine Bueller and I work for OSP as a communications consultant and I create communications and marketing materials for our various tech and open source clients. The spific code is about aiming for clarity and structure and making the problem or the problem space or the scenario specific instead of vague or general.Chris Fenwick:
Hi, i am chris fenwick and i do copywriting and editing at osp. This is short for specific, which means that rather than dealing in very generalities, you should always try to give concrete examples when possible. I should give an example here. When, say, if you're doing a client case study or something like this and you know the client is, we were faith that we were facing many technical challenges due to our old droop all installation, something along those lines, that's okay, but it's much better if you say we were running an old installation of droop all which led to the following problems we couldn't have multiple users editing files on the site. You know it was incompatible with some modern browsers. It didn't allow this kind of integration with translation software. You know something like that. And then when you give the specific examples, you can also then come back to them later in the piece and say how they were solved. So it's always better to be concrete and specific when you're making a case for certain technologies or solutions.Felicity Brand:
Hi, i'm felicity brand. I'm a communications consultant at osp. I write and edit a variety of technical content and i love talking about writing and editing a variety of technical content. So the clues in the name the specific code is about avoiding general claims. The specific code falls in our scope and narrative structure process so we're looking at framing your piece of writing. So it's about making what you're writing about the scenario or the problem space really specific so that you're addressing audience pain points or challenges. So it's building trust With your reader. When you directly address your readers pain points, you're gaining their trust. You gain credibility. Your message is more likely to land. So put yourself in your readers shoes, feel their pain And then speak directly to that experience. The quickest way to establish credibility with your reader is to speak directly about a specific challenge or a friction point. So, rather than being hand wavy, you establish yourself as an authority in the space if you can describe a scenario with specificity. So when you describe a challenge that the reader can relate to, self identify as a target reader, they're more likely to continue reading and they are more likely to grow into a loyal reader if they feel like you as the writer understands the space and the world they live in.Carl Richards:
As part of the editing process. Here's how this code could be used.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
If I see the opportunity to make a clearer picture in the readers mind, i will do one of two things. I will either try and refine what's there and make it more specific, or use the immediately next door related code that we have called example and give a specific example. Sometimes it's hard to know which is which and behind the scenes were kind of flexible as a team about the codes we use. I might edit one thing one time and say give me an example here, and another time I might hit a similar thing and say be more specific comma, give me an example now. I know that doesn't sound all cut and dried right, but we're we're trying to shape these things into, into the best hole that we can on any given day.Christine Buehler:
This is a pretty important one. I would say it's a fairly significant pillar or principal, maybe at OSP. So I think this is one we as editors and as writers are always looking for. As an editor, it just makes your job a lot easier. When this is applied, well, you know, you don't have to sit and puzzle out what the writer is talking about, which is wasting valuable brain space. You just know immediately what the writer is saying. It's easier to edit the piece just once premise is clear to you.Chris Fenwick:
I think if somebody's given a very good set of examples, obviously you want to congratulate on that. When you need to flag things, it's usually the case that you're reading something and there might be a sentence in there that sounds good At first blush, but then you think, well, okay, i would like a little bit more detail here. You just be like I have accelerates your workflow. There'll be something like that, which might be a little bit borderline cliche, but it's where You're writing about some sort of product and there's a positive thing that it does which can be characterized in very general terms. But I think if somebody is then just leaving it there, then you want to jump in with the code and say, okay, please give us a bit more detail.Felicity Brand:
As an editor, you can normally spot specific a mile away. It's right at the front or it should be in the opening, and if you've got a vague or a general claim it stands out like a sore thumb. If you've ever heard that developers are allergic to marketing, this code is the remedy. So as an editor, i'll be looking out for writers trying to establish context. So sometimes, right in the opening, writers might feel that they need to lay down a few sentences to establish the background and often by sentence three or four they get to the meat. They'll get to the specific point. So as an editor, you can often not always, but often you can cut the first one or two sentences and the title should lead nicely into the scenario that the article addresses. That's how I use specific as an editor.Carl Richards:
Now let's explore why this code is handy as a writer.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
I think we should be thinking about it. But I want to be fair. The way that we produce content, we do the strategic work first. Then we fill that into a templated brief that tells us who it's for and what we're talking about and where it's going. Then we create an outline in a first draft. Then we edit it, maybe do an interview and add that. So at the point when I'm writing the first draft I've got a lot of stuff there. But honestly, i think when we're writing we should just feel the keyboard, feel the flow, get it out. My personal style is that in the second or the third passes where I'm looking for that and it's not something I'm focusing on when I'm writing. If you can, it's not a bad thing. Like I said, stand up comedy people definitely look for that. So yes and no, it depends.Christine Buehler:
I'm definitely thinking of spific when I'm writing. For one thing it helps you sort of just bypass any common marketing speak, which I think is usually a result of whoever's writing just doesn't necessarily understand the problem space they're writing about very well, so you sort of resort to broad general claims are ones that just sound good. So spific is pretty important because it lets the readers know that you're more trustworthy also something very important in our communication style at OSP. So I'd say as a writer, this one is pretty critical.Chris Fenwick:
Yeah, this is definitely one of the codes that is consciously present when writing, because in some sense it's structural. Like, if you've gone through the PC, if you've researched it properly, you should have already come up with some like specific examples, maybe case studies or maybe just more concrete features of whatever the products, like the concrete things that enables, like this would be stuff that you have already researched. So, yeah, it's definitely something you think of when Prepare the piece, preparing what it is you want to say in each section, like what examples can you give me?Felicity Brand:
as a writer, the specific code is normally handled early on in our process. So at osp we have a content brief and there we will outline The specific scenario or the problem space that this writing is going to be addressing. I would argue that specific it's one of the main cruxes of your whole piece. So why are you writing it? You're addressing something, you solving a problem, explaining a feature or a tech solution. So generally the whole writing starts with a scenario like that and that will be handled in our content brief. So As a writer, when you sit down to write, hopefully that's already handled for you. So the specific code ties in with the ethos that we have at osp around authentic communication. As a writer, you need specific to show that you really understand what you're writing about, why your readers should care And it's your chance to show empathy. And you can't make that up. You need to have knowledge of the space or the product or the feature that you're writing about to be able to be specific about it and then to be specific about The value or the benefit that that might bring the reader. And then, as a writer, you really letting yourself down. If you've done all this hard work, you've got a great title. You've structured your narrative. You've gotten your references and evidence lined up. Don't sell yourself short with a vague opener. You can't just hope that readers will come along for the ride. So specific is your chance to hook them. Tell them what you're writing about, make it personal and they'll follow you. They will read what you've written And hopefully land on that cta at the end.Carl Richards:
This writing code is very beneficial to readers for many reasons.Jeffrey A. "jam" McGuire:
I suppose that if I give a specific example That somebody can relate to, then they're going to choose to take our information a little more seriously or let it influence them or think better about us. Now, that's not the benefit for them necessarily put that way, but I do think that, given more accessible, more vivid content, people have a better experience. It might be more pleasurable or quicker or easier to understand and apply what we're trying to show them, and I think we all come out better for it in the end.Christine Buehler:
For me personally as a reader, if I'm reading something that is vague or general, i just get bored and I want to stop reading. Vague is just, it's not interesting to read And again, you know, kind of hitting that trustworthiness aspect, if I'm reading something that's not specific, then I'm going to be thinking you know why should I trust this company or this person with my time, with my money, with my, you know, energy? I think spific is also important because it shows that you understand the problem space enough to be writing about it.Chris Fenwick:
I think it's important because it makes the piece more convincing. I don't think it's the case that without specific examples, the readers just going to drop the piece and like leave or close the tab. I think you know that's the case with some other things, like if the language is off, if it's too complicated, but in the case of this code it's more that it makes the piece more convincing and makes it more memorable.Felicity Brand:
As a reader, nothing is going to make you leave something faster than a vague claim What a snooze fest. There's nothing more powerful than feeling seen. If I see myself in your opening statement about friction points or daily frustrations, i'm more likely to keep reading. When you directly address my pain points, i'm going to trust you. I'm going to trust that you know what you're talking about. I'm going to trust that you understand my world and the message in the writing is more likely to land. I'll buy what you're selling. I'll click the link.Carl Richards:
I hope you, dear listener, could relate to some of the pain points we addressed in this episode. Next time you're writing, try to put yourself in your reader's shoes and feel their pain. Speak directly about their experiences and your message is more likely to land. Share your examples or questions with us via Twitter at openunderscorestrategy, or email hello at openstrategypartnerscom. This was one of the editorial codes we use at OSP. We'll be sharing more of them as we go. If you'd like to learn more in the meantime, come over to openstrategypartnerscom, have a look at our writer enablement workshops, case study offering or get in touch to talk about your strategy or product communication needs. Thanks to everyone who contributed to this podcast All the P's at OSP. Thanks to our clients who believe in us Shout out to Patrick Gaumont for our high-energy maple syrup flavored theme music And to Mike Snow for additional horn arrangements. Thank you for listening and subscribing About our three themes on the podcast. You'll hear from different members of the OSP team hosting episodes over time. Communicate All things. Communication We share how we tackle writing, editing, word choices, formats, processes and more. Connect In-depth conversations with interesting, smart people about who they are, what they do and how they approach their life and work as communicators, technologists and leaders. Grow We cover strategic approaches to understanding and expressing the value of what you do, including tools, templates and practical applications. We also feel strongly about building a mindful, positive, human first culture at work. That's bound to pop up from time to time too. This podcast is us figuring out communication, connection and growing together. Subscribe now on YouTube, apple Podcasts or the podcast channel of your choice. Follow us, suggest guests and topics, ask us questions. On social media, we are at Open Underscore Strategy on Twitter Until next time. Thanks for listening to Communicate. Connect. Grow, the OSP podcast.