«Return to Blog List The Small, Big-Impact Piece Missing from Case Studies


At age 16, I walked into my small town’s local newspaper and asked if I could write for them. The owner had no staff writers, and she agreed to turn me loose on a story.

I wrote about a local business and went on to write about many more. At the time, I regularly studied good writing, in school and in everything I read.

Twenty-six years later, I still write about businesses, now as a case study copywriter. But while I have been working IN writing, I haven’t always worked ON my writing.

Daily writing is only part of improving as a writer. You also need conscious effort and external influences – worthy examples and honest peer feedback – to move forward.

It’s just in the past couple of years that I have started working on my writing again. I study how news and feature stories are written. I analyze other copywriting. And I’m taking a writing class this fall.

I also took the step of getting feedback on the occasional case study from a seasoned magazine and book author – and my writing immediately improved. How? I learned I was leaving out a big ingredient that would make my writing more interesting: details.

Mental Pics for Readers

Over the past year, I’ve written 20 or so success stories on copywriters trained by American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI). In showing the evolution of their writing careers, I discovered countless opportunities for detail.

Instead of saying, “She’s been writing since she was a child,” I learned to say, “She started writing horse stories in her Hello Kitty notebook in third grade.”

I could say, “She did odd jobs to make ends meet,” or “She organized shoes at Macy’s and spun Blizzards at Dairy Queen.”

See how detail takes a statement from “telling” to crafting a picture for the reader?

What about Tech Case Studies?

In case studies about technology,  adding detail doesn’t mean more technical detail. Leave those in Tech Specs boxes on the website or in data sheets, not within a narrative. Keep a customer case study focused on the customer’s experience.

In a tech case study, adding detail looks something like this:

Say this…
“It took marketing teams days or weeks to pull all the data they needed for a campaign.”

Instead of this…
“Marketing teams were slow to get campaigns out the door.”

Say this…
“The school upgraded its entire computer lab for one-third the cost it would have spent on traditional PCs.”

Instead of this…
The school upgraded its computer lab for significantly less cost compared to traditional PCs.”

In a recent case study I wrote for a large B2B company, I included numerous details about the featured customer, a sports stadium:

  • How many people packed the stadium for its biggest-ever event
  • The number of photographers and journalists in attendance
  • How slow Internet previously forced journalists to go inside to transmit their photos and stories
  • How much VIP guests paid for their tickets
  • Who won the game!

It’s in the details that stories fully form and remain in readers’ minds.

What details can you add to your writing – today?

4 Responses to The Small, Big-Impact Piece Missing from Case Studies

  1. Bela Lampert says:

    Hi Casey,

    Thanks for this helpful blog post. I couldn’t agree with you more. Details are such an important part of writing, be it in stories or in business. They make it so much easier (and often more emotional) for the reader to visualize the situation.

    I really enjoy reading your blog for your practical advice.


  2. Hal Partenheimer says:

    Hi Casey –

    As a freelancer just launching my case studies writing business, I appreciate the insight on how to separate narrative details from technical ones within the context of the project.

    Crafting the narrative with the right kind of detail to create the picture for the reader while placing the tech detail in a side bar/tech box helps keep the story flowing and yet provides the ‘bits & bolts’ for those who want it. Very helpful!


  3. Karen Marley says:

    Hi Casey,

    I’ve been following (and heeding) your advice for nearly 8 years. Did you catch the detail? 🙂 I also write many profile stories for another client where details are mandatory. I’ve found this experience has really helped my success stories and all the places those narratives live.

    Keep up that great and helpful work Casey!

  4. Casey Hibbard says:

    Hi Karen, I appreciate your comment. Excellent use of details! Keep up the great work.