In the past, readers of technical information were mainly professionals. However, since modern technology has been more and more integrated into people’s daily life and work, readers of
technical information have become more miscellaneous混杂的, including experts, nonexpert
professionals and general audiences, etc. Common people want technical documents to be easy to understand and easy to use. For example, if you are responsible for writing a user’s manual for a
new computer system, whether the manual is usable for the intended audiences is critical. So you need to find out about the actual users—what they are likely to know and not know, what they
may have trouble with, and what they will find helpful. Therefore, if you want your writing to be useful to your readers, you should first understand them. You should put yourself in their position and make audience analysis. This chapter discusses the important aspects of audience analysis, which includes:
; Determining purposes确定目的
; Identifying audiences识别对象
; Analyzing audiences.分析对象
I. Determining Purposes
When you prepare technical documents, you usually have two general purposes: to convey information concisely and accurately so that your audiences can understand the information, and to present your information convincingly so that your audiences will accept your ideas. To realize the two purposes, you should consider the following factors about your audiences when you are planning a document.
Figure 4-1 Factors for Audience Consideration
Purpose Factors of Consideration
; The information you intend your audience to learn. To inform
; The reason why do you want them to learn this.
; The background information you should give.
; Difficulties the audience might have in comprehension.
; The information you should provide for the audience to overcome the
; Ideas or beliefs you intend to cause the audience to accept. To convince
; Actions you intend the audience to take.
; The information you should provide to convince your audience.
; Methods you should use to convince your audience.
; Objections your audience might have.
; The logical argument you should use to overcome the objections.
People read technical information for various purposes: read to assess, to learn, or to learn to
do. They may have both primary and secondary purposes for reading. For example, their primary objective might be to learn to do: to read the instruction manual of a camera in order to take good pictures; their secondary objective might be to learn: to read the manual in order to learn how a camera works. You should prepare to meet readers’ multiple purposes.
II. Identifying Audiences
A technical document is usually written for some intended audience with specific requirements, such as, a specific person (the production director) or a group of people (users of Lenovo
computers). Such audiences want certain information to deal with specific problems. Therefore, before you analyze your audience, you should first find out who they are.
1. Audiences Distinguished by Their Roles
In business, the same information is often read by a number of audiences with different responsibilities. For example, a proposal of new product development could be read by people from different departments in a company—engineering, manufacturing, finance and marketing. In
this case, you are often expected to write a document that simultaneously meets the needs of several different audiences.
Roles of audience can be classified into three general categories based on their position in the organization, their connection to the particular problem, and their function in decision making.
• The primary audience: the individual for whom your document is actually intended,
the decision maker who will actually use the information.
• Secondary audiences: those who receive and read your document. They have an
interest because they are influenced by the information or the decision based on it.
• External audiences: those outside the organization but affected by the information or
the decision based on it.
This classification can be illustrated by the following example. The primary audience of a proposal for building a new workshop could be the general manager of the company. The secondary audiences might include the board of directors of the company. An external audience might be a legal counselor from a law office.
2. Audiences Distinguished by Their Knowledge and Expertise
Audiences can also be distinguished by their level of knowledge and expertise, which concern mainly with their education and working experience. Figure 4-2 identifies, in general, different audiences’ levels of education, their expertise, and their expectations. Such generalizations may not fit the conditions of every reader, but they may help you understand a particular category of audience.
Figure 4-2 Audience’s Education, Expertise and Expectations
Audiences Education, Expertise and Expectations
; Have completed some schooling; may have some special knowledge from Children
hobbies and activities.
; Have limited knowledge in theory and vocabulary; have strong curiosities.
; Want explanation on how and why things happen; prefer information that
helps them learn and do;
; May be highly educated but not in what they are reading or doing. General
; Have general knowledge in a field; have diverse interests. Audiences
; Prefer information that explains how and why, and that helps them learn and
; Work on their undergraduate or graduate degrees, and may have specialized Students
training from part-time jobs or internship.
; Have general knowledge in a field; need technical details as well as theoretical
; Prefer information that helps them learn and do; have interest in both theory
; May have on-the-job training but little formal job-related education. Workers
; Know the job they are assigned to do, have limited knowledge in theory.
; Prefer simple and direct instructions on how to do.
; Have a degree from a two- or three-year college or equivalent experience. Technicians
; Know the practice of their specialties; may have knowledge in theory.
; Prefer straightforward instructions; require information for learning to do.
; Have undergraduate or graduate degrees or equivalent experience, but may not Professional
be experts in areas they are responsible for.具有高学历但不一定是所从事职nonexperts
人员 ; Know general principles and concepts of the field where they are working.
; Require explanations for special concepts and procedures; prefer information
for decision making.
; Possess undergraduate or graduate degrees or equivalent experience in Experts
; Know theories, practice and technical information in their field of study.
; Require direct explanations; use information for learning and doing.
III. Analyzing Audiences
After you have decided on the purposes for your document and identified the general category of
your audiences, you need to know more about them. To meet their needs and expectations, you
should consider the following factors in audience analysis:
• Purpose and motivation目的与动机
• Reading level阅读水平
• Organizational role组织角色
Context refers to the working conditions in which audiences use the document. Noisy and distracting surroundings may disturb readers’ concentration and reduce their reading efficiency. In
preparing a technical document, therefore, you should take the context into consideration and adjust elements such as paragraph division, headings, page design, type and size of illustrations, and even the binding装订方式, to make the reading easier.
For example, a user manual used by technicians while they are repairing a machine in a workshop requires a strong cover, pages that lie flat, a detailed table of contents, and clear headings and visuals. You can use organizational and graphic devices to increase audiences’
reading efficiency. Organizational devices include abstracts, headings, transitions, logical order and well-designed page layout; graphic devices include tables, graphs, diagrams, etc.
2. Purpose and Motivation
Once you know your target audience, you can analyze the audience’s purpose in reading a
document. People’s selection of information is directly related to their professional responsibilities. A manager may want theories and principles that help him or her to make a decision, a technician may want to read an operation manual, and a worker may require plain oral directions to carry out a job. Therefore, learning the audience’s purpose help you determine the contents of your
Audiences’ motivation influences their attitude to certain information—feeling of accepting
or rejecting it. To understand the audience’s motivation, you should learn how the audience will
feel about the document—positive, neutral or negative, and how much they will need the
information. To increase their receptivity and reduce their resistance, you need adjust the organization of information according to their motivation.
For instance, to receptive audiences, you can use deductive method by presenting recommendations first and then supporting them in subsequent sections; to resistant audiences, you’d better use inductive method by presenting the problem first, discussing the alternatives, and then leading to the most appropriate and feasible solution. Adjust your method of writing to suit your audiences’ taste may quiet their resistance and induce their favorable consideration of your document.
Additional Example: Get to know your audience’s motivation
These cartoons show that people are motivated by something unusual. When you say that something is amazing, interesting or beautiful, they are not interested because they have seen many good things; but when you say that something is gross (disgusting), you immediately catch
3. Reading Level
Reading level is the degree of difficulty of information that audiences can understand. Your writing should be well within the readers’ comprehension or it is of little use. You should not
simply assume that the more educated a reader is, the more difficult the material he or she can read. A highly educated person in one specialized area may not be a fluent reader in another. A professor of Chinese literature may have some difficulties in reading computer science. Therefore, you should adjust the content and method of your writing according to your audiences’ reading
level. The general guideline is that your writing should be as easy as possible provided that the content is not oversimplified or distorted.
Expertise concerns audiences’ level of technical knowledge. Audiences of technical documents are now becoming more and more diverse: experts, professional nonexperts, general audiences, children, etc. Since different readers have very different levels of technical knowledge, you have to adjust your material for your intended readers with particular levels of technical competence. You need to change the complexity of the contents, vocabulary and structure of your document. The examples in Figures 4-3 A, B and C illustrate how technical writers can adapt information to meet the needs of different audiences.
Figure 4-3 A Paragraph for Beginners
What is a camera? A camera is a machine for taking pictures. A traditional camera generally consists of an enclosed box with an opening (aperture光圈) at one end for light to enter, and a
recording surface for capturing the light感光面 at the other end. A majority of cameras have a
lens fixed in front of the aperture to gather the incoming light and focus the image on the recording surface把影像聚焦在感光面上. The aperture is, in turn, attached to a shutter快门, a
mechanical device that controls the length of time that the light hits the recording surface一个控
Figure 4-3 B Paragraph for College Students
The Working Process of a Camera. The light reflected from an object or scene enters the camera through the focusing lens聚焦镜头, which gathers the incoming light and forms a clear image in the viewfinder取景器. The adjustable aperture determines the amount of light entering the camera according to the brightness and distance of the scene or object可变光圈根据景物光线的强弱和
距离确定进光量, and the shutter controls the opening time of the aperture for photographic exposure快门通过控制光圈的开启时间来控制照相曝光时间. When the shutter is released, the
aperture flips open and light enters the film compartment在按下快门时(光圈迅速开启(光线
进入胶卷箱. The light hits the recording surface and forms a negative image on the light sensitive film.光线照射感光区(并在感光胶卷上形成底片影像。
Figure 4-3 C Paragraph for Photographers
The Operational Instruction of a Camera. Switch the Power button to “on”. Grasp the camera
with its lens pointing away from you in your right hand so that your index finger is wrapped
around the top, right-hand corner of the camera. Your remaining fingers should be in the notch of the lens cover and your thumb should be on the film compartment door. Aim the camera at the object that you will be photographing and look through the viewfinder. Center the main item of your picture into the middle of the viewfinder. Make sure the small, inner box in the very center of the viewfinder is on the object you want to photograph. This is the spot where the camera will focus. Failure to center the focusing box on your object can result in blurred pictures. Make sure that there is nothing, fingers or shoulder strap, directly in front of the lens. When everything is ready, depress the shutter release. Your picture is taken and the film is automatically advanced to the next frame. The camera automatically adjusts for different lighting situations and turns the flash on automatically when needed.
Figure 4-3 A is a paragraph for beginners or school children learning about cameras. The writer uses the run-in heading to raise a question to catch the readers’ attention. He then introduces
the structure of the camera and the function of each part in simple language. Here very little knowledge about the camera is assumed. Sentences are simple in structure, and technical terms, such as aperture and shutter, are clearly defined.
Figure 4-3 B is a paragraph for college students learning the working principles of a camera. These students already learned the basic knowledge of physics at high school and what they need to learn is the process of how a camera works. The writer explains the process in more specific details without providing definitions to technical terms because he knows that the students are able to understand them with ease.
Figure 4-3 C is a paragraph for instructing photographers how to take high-quality pictures. Here the readers’ concentration is on how to operate the camera, but not on how it works. Therefore, the writer provides a step-by-step description of the operational process of the camera in a more practical way.
5. Organizational Role
People with different roles in an organization may require different information on the same issue. For example, people who are all managers may be in charge of different departments such as manufacturing, marketing, research and development, or quality control. You have to adjust to such audiences either by emphasizing aspects of the subject relevant to their organizational role, or by responding to their particular point of view.
igures 4-4 A, B, and C are three e-mail messages written by the general manager (GM) F
about the same subject: the installation of a new assembly line for the purpose of improving product quality, reducing waste, and increasing production. Each message is directed to a separate manager with specialized responsibilities and interests.
Figure 4-4 A Memo to the Production Manager
To David Parker, Manager of Production Department
From Richard Nicholson, General Manager
Date 12 April 2006
Subject New Giant Assembly Line
The newly installed assembly line is scheduled to go into production by April 25. This line will solve the problems of material transportation your department has been troubled by, and thus increase production. It will also improve product quality and reduce waste. When your workers have mastered the operation of the line, I look forward to a report on the increased rates of production per shift. 在工人们熟练掌握了生产线操作之后(请交来每班
Figure 4-4 B Memo to the Finance Manager
To Peter Taylor, Manager of Finance Department
From Richard Nicholson, General Manager
Date 12 April 2006
Subject New Giant Assembly Line
The newly installed assembly line is an effective solution to the problems of material transportation we have been troubled by是对我们一直头疼的材料运输问题的有效解决办
法. With the expected waste reduction, production increase and quality improvement, the payback period should be shortened by at least half a year.按照预期的损耗降低、产量增
加和质量提高(投资回报期将至少缩短半年。 The trial production indicates that the new
assembly line has been an intelligent investment.试生产已经显示新的生产线是一项明智
Figure 4-4 C Memo to the Manager of Marketing and Sales.
TO Diane Martin, Manager of Marketing ， Sales
From Richard Nicholson, General Manager
Date 12 April 2006
Subject New Giant Assembly Line
With the newly installed assembly line in the production department, product availability生
产率 will increase by approximately 60%. The product stockpiling产品库存 is expected to
begin on May 16. Therefore, a new plan in marketing strategy should be initiated to increase sales and expand our market to new areas including Middle East and Western Europe.因此(需要制定新的销售计划以增加销售量并向包括中东和西欧在内的新地区扩大
Although the three emails are of the similar level of complexity, the focus changes in each one to emphasize the content that is relevant to its intended reader concerning his or her responsibilities. The first one focuses on solving the production problems and increasing production; the second one emphasizes the efficiency of the investment; and the third one highlights market development due to the increase in production.
You’d better write different e-mail messages, if you believe that your special efforts will
increase readers’ understanding and support. Sometimes, however, the company may require that
all audiences receive the same e-mail. In such cases you need to write a general e-mail for
different audiences. To make your message effective, you may consider the following suggestions:
• Writing mainly for primary audiences: Putting first your information for those who need
the information for activities or decision making.
• Considering secondary audiences: Include information that will interest secondary
audiences based on its value to the primary audiences.
• Using effective document design: Use headings, bulleted or numbered lists, boldface
and italic, etc. to signal important information.
I. Read and analyze the audiences and the related factors for the following two paragraphs about the same subject—the heart. Complete the following list based on your analysis of the paragraphs.
Factor Paragraph One Paragraph Two
Audience General audiences Medical students
Context Any place possible At school or in the hospital
Content General in meaning and easy to Specific in meaning and more
understand. difficult to understand.
Purpose To inform, to tell what the heart is. To inform, to tell in detail how the
Vocabulary Use simple everyday word, use few Use medical terms frequently to
specialized medical terms. gain accuracy and expertise.
Paragraph One. The heart is an organ slightly bigger than a fist. It is located between the longs in the center and a bit to the left of the middle of the body. It works like a pump that drives the blood throughout the body. The heart mainly consists of two parts, the left heart and the right heart. In each part, there are two chambers心腔；心房和心室腔, the upper
chamber and the lower chamber. The upper chambers receive the blood from the veins while the lower chambers pump the blood out into arteries. Each chamber is connected to the other by a valve that allows the blood to flow in one direction only.
Paragraph Two. Although the right and the left sides of the heart are completely separated from each other, they work together. The blood is squeezed through the chambers by contraction of heart muscle beginning in the thin-walled upper chambers, the atria, and followed by a contraction of the thick muscle of the lower chambers, the ventricles. This active phase is called systole, and in each case it is followed by a short resting period known as diastole. The contraction of the walls of the atria is completed at the time the contraction of the ventricles begins. Thus the resting phase (diastole) begins in the atria at same time as the contraction (systole) begins in the ventricles. As soon as the ventricles have emptied, the atria, which meanwhile have been filling with blood, contract while the ventricles relax and again fill with blood. Then the ventricle systole begins.
II. Read the following two groups of sentences for different audiences. Determine the audience for each sentence, and then tell which group is adjusted for differences in audience technical knowledge, while which is adjusted for differences in their organizational role.
; Man-made materials can be damaged by the sun. For general Group One:
The topic of audience.
sunlight ; Synthetic fibers can be degenerated by sun light. For students.
damage is ; Polymer degeneration can be caused by ultraviolet radiation. For
adjusted for experts.
Group Two；; The shipment was delayed because the heavy snow paralyzed all
The topic of means of transportation from the factory to the dock. The seller’s
shipment report to the shipper or to the buyer.
delay is ; The seller shall not be held liable for the delay in shipment under the
adjusted for contract in consequence of Force Majeure, which might occur in the differences in course of loading or transit. 按照合同(在装货和运输过程中如果
organizational seller’s appeal to an arbitration agency to settle the dispute
role between the seller and the buyer.
; The company will not be able to attain its production goals of the
year because of the delay in shipment. The buyer’s complain to the
seller or to the arbitration agency.
III. Write two paragraphs on the same subject for two different audiences. Make appropriate adjustments in content focus, word choice, sentence structure, and organization for each audience. You may select one of the followings topics, or find your own:
cable TV operation setting a fractured bone
capability of computer effects of cigarette smoking
operation of microwave oven fetal alcohol syndrome
effects of aerobic exercise blood coagulation
Example writings；Blood Coagulation
The following examples in Figures A, B and C show workplace professionals can adapt
information to meet the needs of different audiences. The director of medical technology for an
urban hospital produced three paragraphs abut coagulation, each intended for a different audience.
Figure A Paragraph for High School Students
What is coagulation? If a blood vessel ruptures, the blood thickens and forms a gel called a clot, which slows the flow of blood from the wound. This process is called coagulation, a mechanism to prevent blood loss when a blood vessel is ruptured. This process is initiated both by the damaged blood vessel tissue and by substances released form the damaged tissue. The substances activate proteins in the blood called procoagulants. The activated procoagulants act as enzymes in a series of chemical reactions that culminate in the conversion of a molecule of fibrinogen to a smaller molecule, fibrin. The fibrin molecules link together into strands. These strands form a tight mesh that is known as fibrin clot.
Figure B Paragraph for Medical Technology Majors in College
The Process of Coagulation. A major function of the hemostatic mechanism of the cardiovascular system is the coagulation of blood. Coagulation plays a vital role in preventing blood loss in episodes of vessel injury, allowing the body to maintain blood volume and retain blood products. The process of coagulation is achieved through the chain of chemical reactions of procoagulants (a group of plasma proteins) and tissue cell constituents. The procoagulants circulate through the bloodstream as inert enzyme, activated by damaged tissue, phospholipid from cell membranes, and calcium ions. After a series of enzymatic reactions, the procoagulants cleave a protein peptide from fibrinogen, a glycoprotein, to form a fibrin monomer. The fibrin monomers polymerize into strands that form an insoluble mesh known as a fibrin clot.
Figure C Paragraph for Professional Medical Technologists in a Hospital Review Course
Pathways in coagulation. Three pathways are involved in the coagulation of the hemostatic
mechanism: intrinsic, extrinsic, and common pathways. Each pathway consists of a cascade of photolytic enzyme reactions in which procoagulants, a series of inert circulating proteolytic enzyme called coagulation factors, activate one another. The intrinsic pathway is activated by the
presence of damaged endothelium tissue and a high molecular weight activator, kallikren. The extrinsic pathway is activated by tissue factor, a phospholipid of endothelium, and calcium ions. The common pathway is activated by the resultant coagulation factors of the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways. The result of the common pathway is the conversion of fibrinogen to fibrin monomers, which polymerize into strands. The strands mesh through covalent bonding to form an insoluble fibrin clot.
The first paragraph (Figure A) is for high school biology students learning new concepts. These students need to learn the vocabulary as well as the process of coagulation. The writer uses the run-in heading to pose a question to focus the students’ attention and let them know what to