Grading Your Audience (Users)

You have to know for whom you are writing for and the degree of their knowledge about the subject. You have to adapt your writing to meet the needs, interests, and the background of the readers. You should perform audience analysis early in the writing process to help clarify how you should organize the information, write, and format your document. To understand the importance of grading and analyzing the audience before you start working on your document, let us consider the following cases:

Case 1: Writing a book—You are writing a book, Introduction to Computers.

  • What you do? You research the topic well and write it, adding a lot of technical information, graphics, and descriptions. You create a book that is technically correct, perfect in language and style, well formatted and designed document. The format and the design of the document is excellent too.
  •  What can happen? It can be rejected by your readers. The audience targeted were children of 6 years of age. They will not understand the technical concepts and hence the information will be of no importance to them. Also, the design and format of the book will not appeal to them!
  • What is the problem? The information is technically correct, but presentation and organization of the information, the level of detail you have to use, the language and style that has to be followed for these two groups of audience are entirely different.
  • Observation: For children in the age group 5-10, you have to include more figures and less text, use simple language, and less technical words. Even if you write a book with the same title for 15-year olds, the content and the structure of the book should be different. This shows the importance of knowing the educational background and knowledge level of your audience before you start writing.

Case 2: Writing a Report—Your organization has developed an electronics device that works as a pacemaker and is supposed to be a breakthrough in medical science. It is cost effective and the patient does not need to undergo a major surgery. You write a report about this new discovery in medical science.

  • What you do? You talk to the people who have created the product and get the required information. You then create a report about the functioning of the device and how helpful it can be to the mankind.
  • What can happen? Your report can be rejected.
  • What is the problem? You wrote for a general audience where as in this case, you have two different sets of users. One set of audience, consisting of engineers, familiar with the electronic concepts, but not with the working of the human heart. Another set consisting of doctors and people related to medical science, who are familiar with the matters of the human heart, but not with the electronics details of the device. Your report did not address the requirement of the two distinct and different set of users.
  • Observation: The two groups have different educational backgrounds and different purposes for reading about the device. The electronics engineers will be more curious about the electronics design and the doctors will be more interested in whether they can safely use this device to treat patients. So, you not only have to provide different background information and details for each type of audience. Ideally, you have to create two reports with different details, to captivate the interest of your audience.

Case 3: Writing a proposal—You are trying to persuade the management in your organization to buy a new but expensive documentation tool.

  • What you do? You research the product and create a proposal that describes the advantages of the software—what the product does.
  • What can happen? Your proposal can be rejected.
  • What is the problem? The information is technically correct, but you did not include the information the readers (the management) are looking for. Your aim is to convince the management that the new software is required for the work you are doing. So the proposal should have addressed the concerns of the management.
  • Observation: You have to justify how the new software can speed up the process. Also, mention how it will take care of the delays and other concerns where you currently spend a few staff-hours on a daily basis. Give examples of how the existing tools affect your flow of work and how the new tool can help you over -come these difficulties. Make a comparative study of the two tools.
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