You can put impressing efforts into making sure your work is of the highest quality and yet writing it to the wrong audience, thereby making your work almost entirely useless. All technical documents address a particular audience or specific group of people, and hence, you must ensure to not aim at everyone. This is the second lesson you must take note in this Course.
The first step in knowing how to perfectly write for your audience is to Know who your audiences are – your intended Readers. It is very essential to being successful as a technical writer and this is why you need good research skills in technical writing.
You can’t effectively communicate with an audience you don’t know or understand. Knowing your audience will help you determine what information to present, how to present it and how to write about it. It will help you produce a document that will resonate with and be valuable to your intended readers.
Categories of Audience in Technical Writing
In knowing who your audiences are, you must be able to identify the type or category they fall into. There are four common categories your audience is most likely to fit into in technical writing:
- Experts: This category of readers extensively knows the theories, products, and or services because they designed and tested them. However, they more often face the communication challenge of communicating what they know about these theories, products, and or services to the technician and executive. A technical writer comes to their rescue to play as their technical communicator.
- Technicians: People that fall within this category of audience are the ones that build, operate, maintain, and repair what the experts design and theorise about.
- Executives: These readers are the decision makers. They make business, economical, administrative, legal, governmental decisions on what the experts and technicians work with.
- Non-specialists: This category of readers has little or no technical knowledge. They are also known as the end-users.
Audience Analysis in Technical Writing
Audience analysis is the process of collating as much information as possible about your audience to better understand who they are and what they care about in terms of goals, interests, and needs. In technical writing, the more information you collate about your audience, the better your analysis will be and the easier it will be to write for your audience.
Through an Audience analysis, you’ll be able to identify the following:
- Who your audience is
- What their goals and expectations for the document are
- Their background, knowledge, and experience
- Their pain points, attitudes, and interests
- Their biases and opinions, preconceived perceptions and assumptions
- Culture or communication preferences if any
- Demographic characteristics
Gathering the Information
Note that the information you can gather about your audience are not limited to all that has been listed above. There are just a few to help you get started, you can collect as much information as possible to help you understand your audience better.
Now, how do you know this information?
In cases where you can physically meet your audience or members of your audience, you can meet to discuss about them, their needs, pain-points and expectations. Where you can’t physically meet them, you can garner this information by observing them. Carefully observe how they speak and interact, and their verbal and nonverbal behaviors to find out their needs, and values.
You can also gain information about your audience through surveys and questionnaires, audience feedback, personal experience, popular opinions and stereotypes, analytics, online interviews.
Tutor’s Tip: Getting to write for your audience is not as easy as it sounds and you may not perfect it at a go. To be successful at this, always refine your writing as much as you need, and with each subsequent draft, think more carefully about your audience, revise, and then improve your document.
Key Lesson Takeaway: ‘When it comes to technical writing, you must not aim at everyone. You must write for your audience and adapt your writing to meet their needs, goals and expectations for the document. Conducting a complete audience analysis is the only way to achieve this.’