Writing Great Instructions

When you’re hiring a copywriter, one of the things you’ll need to provide is a set of instructions. Those instructions don’t need to be overly formal; just saying “I need a blog post on the health benefits of brushing your teeth” works. A detailed, point-by-point explanation of exactly what you want in the article also works. It all depends on how stringent your requirements are and how you best communicate said requirements.

Whether you prefer short or long instructions, though, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind.

Do tell me what to write.  That’s the obvious one: I can’t give you the content you need if I don’t understand your content needs. Be specific; there’s no such thing as too much information.

Don’t tell me how to write. This isn’t an issue with most clients, but now and again I’ll run into someone who feels the need to, for instance, explain how to write a paragraph. That level of micromanagement really isn’t necessary.

Do give me style information. My default is AP (Associated Press) style, which is the standard for most online content writing. If you want me to deviate from AP (for instance, to add serial commas), let me know. If you’d like me to use a different style guide, let me know. If you have your own style guide, share it with me!

Do give me examples. If you have an established website, blog or publication with plenty of existing content, I can match the style and tone. If you don’t, see if you can find another site with the sort of content you’d like. I can work without examples, but it’s easier to stay on the same page if we start off looking at the same thing.

Don’t be afraid to add more as you go. Instructions aren’t a “fire and forget” measure; they’re the start of ongoing communication between an author and a client. If you think of something that wasn’t in the original instructions, let me know and I’l add it in. If I miss something in the instructions, let me know and I’ll fix the issue. It’s really okay.


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