Hello! For this conversation on writing about Web3 we spoke to Sterling Schuyler - a tech copywriter who writes for emerging fund managers and has an interest in all things crypto. She also runs a blog and is passionate about raising awareness about the work of women in the Web3 space - you can check out her recent List of Women in Crypto That You Keep Asking For.
I’d say that oftentimes good writing stems from a passion for the subject. How did you find yours?
Yes, I totally agree. And yeah, that’s really how I found my niche here in writing for crypto and emerging fund managers. Before this, I had been writing about a variety of things: expat life, travel, food, sustainability, which are all things I am very passionate about, or enjoy learning about. But what really pushed me towards writing about crypto and for fund managers was that I didn’t see a lot of people in this space, or at least those who write well. I just continue to find myself really energized by talking to people who are doing this work. So yeah, definitely, I would say good writing stems from having a passion. It’s really difficult to write about things that you aren’t passionate about, at least that’s what I find.
What makes for good tech copywriting?
The first thing that comes to mind is accessibility, making sure that people understand what you’re trying to say. People who aren’t subject matter experts need to be able to understand what it is you’re trying to communicate. But on top of being accessible, the content needs to be interesting. There’s a lot of writing out there that’s written in simple plain language. But it’s not necessarily interesting to read. I also believe that good writing in general respects the reader’s time. Especially these days, nobody wants to read paragraphs, upon paragraphs of text about anything, really. So being able to write concisely, in an interesting way, and in an accessible way is really, really important and will definitely make you stand out as a writer.
I saw a Tweet of yours in which you joked that we should have a Grammarly for poor tech copywriting. So what are the most common mistakes?
Not being concise. Whether it’s because we think that having a lot of words is indicative of being smart or if we simply can’t distill our thoughts down into concise writing, people tend to just dump their thoughts out and then don’t edit. And again, oftentimes they don’t think about respecting the reader’s time. Another mistake would be using jargon and buzzwords. In the tweet you’re referencing I give an example of a sentence which I copied and pasted from someone’s website: “Technology to transform your workplace culture, communities and customer connections”. What does that mean? And this whole website was just full of these kinds of buzzwordy, cool sounding single-sentence snippets about accelerating and transforming. There’s another word that I’ve seen a lot recently: bespoke. To be fair, some of these words are very useful, for example I think bespoke is a good alternative to the word custom. And I would bet you that Grammarly has suggested that as an alternative word for people who use custom too much in their writing. So yes, using buzzwords, fluff words, and jargon, when it doesn’t really mean anything or add value or actually communicate what it is that you do, is one of the most common mistakes I see in tech copywriting.
As you’ve mentioned, there’s plenty of technical terms and weird abbreviations in Web3 which sometimes makes it difficult to grasp. How do we use language to make it more accessible?
That’s a really good question and something I think about a lot. In terms of the way that I write, I define acronyms and terms. Whenever I can, regardless of how many times I’ve written about it or where I’m writing about it, I will always do my best to define a lot of what I’m writing, because you never know who will come across your writing or who’s consuming your content. Take this example: you have a Substack or some sort of newsletter series and it’s your 20th issue, you’re talking about accredited investors who are investing in Series A. When it’s your 20th issue, you often assume that people have been following you from the beginning and that they have an innate knowledge about the subject. But that’s not always the case. Something cool I see a lot in Web3, especially in many of the crypto and NFT Telegram groups I’m in, is that I will see people make the effort to spell out an acronym in their first messages. Then people will continue to explain the same acronym, because they want to make sure that as others join the group, no matter when, they’ll always feel comfortable.I really appreciate that about a lot of the different communities which are out there.
What excites you most about the future you’re helping shape through your writing?
The first thing that comes to mind is the potential wealth that artists can generate through NFTs. I think it’s remarkable - this new method of incorporating a percentage into the contract when you sell an NFT and the fact that an artist can get a percentage of the sale, every time. I think it can really challenge the idea of the starving artist and it can encourage more people to pursue art as a truly feasible and sustainable way of life. And on top of that, the idea that in 100 years it will be easier for the family estate to continue to reap the benefits of that art. And this means that we need to make Web3 itself and Web3 education more accessible. Because we don’t want people to be left behind in this revolution.