Mistakes by Non-Writers: Lack of Audience Analysis

What is common knowledge to a subject matter expert (SME) may not be common knowledge to you or to someone else. Experts in almost any field have difficulty in explaining technical concepts to non-experts without using jargon. Language experts may know the concepts of grammar, but not the technical terminology or concept and may end up writing too much or too little.

Example: Think of how you would communicate with a 6-month old, a two year old, an eight year old, and a 15-year old. Even if you are communicating the same thought/idea to all of them, the way you do it is absolutely different. The tone, the voice, and the words used differ for each of them. You do it to suit the understanding of each of these persons you are talking with.

Documentation written by subject and/or language experts who do not understand the concept of technical writing may contain:

  • Too much detail of the subject for an expert audience.
  • Less detail of the product/subject for a novice user who expects detailed information on the basics of the topic.
  • Technical terms and the writing style used at the wrong levels of understanding.
  • Information what the writer wants to tell the users, not what the users want to know.

The right amount of salt and spices added to a dish makes it a great or bad dish. Similarly, the amount and type of information makes a good or a bad document.


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