Forget Writing; Frame and Embellish Instead

You now have a bunch of raw customer quotes arranged in basic case study order. These quotes are the most important parts of your story, and your job is to simply connect and frame them in a way that maximizes their impact and gets your point across. It’s more like interior design than writing; the “furniture” is already there, you just need to move it around and add some pieces until it “looks” (and, in this case, sounds) fabulous. But how?

The first step is to go through your multi-colored transcript and pick out the strongest quotes. You probably only have space for four or five in each section, so you need to be merciless. Good quotes are clear, succinct, compelling, and if you’re lucky, a little catchy or punchy. Aside from delivering the facts, quotes are also a great way to add personality and color to dry case studies.

Now I’m going to share with you one of the most important facts about case study writing: You can change customer quotes. You are not a reporter. You are not being held to some journalistic standards that say you must faithfully reproduce all comments word for word (not even journalists adhere to standards like these). You can—nay, definitely should—edit and embellish quotes to help them make their point more effectively. In my years of case study writing experience, I have never, ever had an interviewee take me to task for altering a quote. In fact, most people appreciate being made to sound better, and besides, they don’t remember their exact words anyway.

This isn’t to say you can go crazy and just make up stuff for the fun of it. You have to retain the spirit of what a customer says and try to make it sound at least somewhat plausible. If you take a quote like, “Yes, on the whole I would say the WidgetTron 6000 is a pretty good product,” and turn it into “The WidgetTron 6000 is the best product in the whole wide world and it’s awesomeness brings me to tears every time I think about it,” you’re going to run into problems when it comes time for the customer to approve the case study.

A better way to shape this quote would be something like this: “The WidgetTron 6000 is a really good product. It is easy to use and allowed us to streamline our operations.” I deleted the “on the whole” and changed “pretty good” to “really good,” which removes the lukewarm tone. I also tacked on a part of a different quote (that I conveniently just made up) to make it sound more well-rounded.

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