You could be excused for giving up on the ‘FAQ’ pages of many websites and brochures. Too often the answers are worded with the greasy evasiveness of a politician facing a hostile press conference.
When you’re writing an FAQ page, FIRST answer the questions; THEN explain, if you must. To avoid wasting your readers’ time, follow these three golden rules:
1. The questions must be genuine. Too many FAQs are made-up squibs designed to pave the way for a marketing message. What prospects and customers want to see on your FAQ page are real answers to real questions.
2. The answers must be straightforward. ‘Yes/No’ questions should be answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Questions of ‘how many’ or ‘how much’ should be answered with a number. All questions should be answered directly, in the first sentence, using as few words as possible.
3. No answers are better than evasive answers. If your lawyers won’t let you give straightforward answers to genuine questions, you are better off without the FAQs. The organisation’s time and money would be more profitably invested in fixing the problems than in trying to weasel your way out of admitting them.
Here’s the first sentence of a typically fuzzy FAQ from a software outfit marketing to academics and university students. I’ve highlighted the phrases from the answer that do nothing but repeat the question:
Q: How many computers can I install my single-user edition on?
A: The individual End User License Agreement allows a single license holder to install EndNote on up to three of his/her computers.
As you can see, the only phrase that was NOT redundant was ‘up to three’.
Watch the video tutorial to see what else I did to cut the answer from 88 words to 25 … and why it was the right thing to do.
I also fixed the dangling preposition at the end of the question. A product aimed at university students and their professors can afford to be formally correct in its grammar, even in these degenerate times.