In-Depth Guide: ‘Expanding Community Networks in Michigan’

Eight-month project to update and rebuild a previous 100-plus page document on how to build a municipal fiber-optic broadband network, geared towards rural and small-town areas of Michigan. The client was Merit Network, a Michigan ISP for universities and other public entities that manages a 4,000-mile fiber-optic network of its own.

This involved intensive editing, rewriting and new writing, while reorganizing and boiling the content down to a more manageable 63 pages. I wrote roughly the first half from scratch, adding new information to report on the state of the digital divide in Michigan, through interviews with subject-matter experts and community leaders as well as long hours of reviewing related materials.

I also found the graphic designer for this project and led the painstaking coordination of putting the final piece together. This occurred through about a dozen revisions, in addition to changes based on reviews from various staff members on the client side.

To be clear, I’m no broadband expert, just as I’m no IPv6 expert. I had only consumer-level knowledge of this topic before beginning this project. Using tried-and-true interviewing techniques, I’m able to go from zero to expert-level article in two days. I’ve done this for arcane legal, engineering, healthcare, financial, and technology subject matter. I have been exercising these skills since I was a teenager: first as a copywriter and proofreader, then as a business journalist, then as a broadcast news producer, and then full circle back to copywriting again.

These classic copywriting questioning methods allow skilled professional writers to zero in on the core of a subject and then fill out the surrounding content from there. You give me your subject matter experts, I give you high-level yet clear, concise copy — quickly.

People often say you should write to the level of a 12-year-old or middle schooler. That’s the wrong way to look at it. There’s no dumbing down of the content here. You wouldn’t call an engineer a 12-year-old for not being able to understand complex healthcare content. Rather, you maintain the sophistication of the subject while making it clear to any reader. That’s the burden of the writer, not the reader.