How to Write About Unfamiliar Subjects: Four Tips for New Topics


It’s easy to wonder how a writer can produce authoritative and compelling content about unfamiliar subjects. The answer is surprisingly simple.

One of the most common questions we receive from prospective clients is how our writing team can do justice to projects when the team doesn’t have prior experience with clients’ products and procedures.

We consider ourselves vendor-partners to our customers. Since our start in 1992, we’ve mastered the skill of coming up to speed on new projects. It starts with primary research.

Learning About Unfamiliar Subjects

Subject matter experts (SMEs) are the people in each organization who know the critical information to complete a project.

Beginning a new project starts with a kickoff call. SMEs explain the project, and writers interview SMEs for important details. Writers also collect any written reference material.

While writers usually work well off-site, they can sometimes visit client locations to experience and capture unwritten procedures. Also, depending on project scope, some on-site contractors shadow cross-functional teams to get a complete picture of the subject.

Writers quickly gather information on unfamiliar subjects until they have enough details and content to meet project parameters. Then, they write.

Writing About Unfamiliar Subjects

A diverse team of writers has experience developing content across industries and disciplines. For example, different ProEdit writers have soft skills in journalism, math, the sciences, industrial procedures, economics, human resources, and dozens of other topics. This expertise has all kinds of benefits.

First, writers usually have a head start establishing the vocabulary and tone of the projects they take on. Second, writers have experience engaging different kinds of audiences. Students, college graduates, professionals, skilled workers, and industry insiders all benefit from writing tailored to them. Writing to diverse groups is a learned skill. As a result, experienced writers can adapt their approach to clients’ intended audiences. Ensuring this is a dynamic process.

Confirming Details Along the Way

Writers confirm details about unfamiliar subjects throughout the project.

Sometimes, writers have questions they can’t answer with an internet search. In these cases, writers reach out to SMEs for clarity. Whenever possible, writers batch their questions to avoid consuming SMEs’ time. Writers use several strategies depending on urgency and importance. For instance, writers may leave comments in a document, ask questions during scheduled weekly meetings, or contact SMEs directly.

There’s another important way to confirm project details. Project managers often organize revision cycles to allow clients to review intermediate drafts. It works like this:

  1. Writers and editors prepare a draft and send it to clients.
  2. Clients and SMEs then review the draft and offer feedback.
  3. Writers integrate feedback before completing the final version.

This approach allows clients to verify the scope and details of the writer’s work at key stages of the project.

Asking questions and exchanging revisions are proven ways for writers to develop unfamiliar subjects into accurate, compelling content. This approach works well for most projects, but there’s a way to go even deeper.

Staffing Industry Insiders

Some large projects require deeper knowledge, experience, or daily access to SMEs. In these cases, recruiters can find talented professionals to join your team on a permanent or contract basis. ProEdit specializes in business communication staffing for writers, editors, instructional designers, and related fields.

How to Get Started

ProEdit can help you organize a project plan based on whatever human and document resources you have. Tell us about your objectives today.