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