Audience analysis is the process of dissecting & examining the intended readers of a document in order to adapt your writing to their needs, wants, beliefs attitudes, etc. Documents that meet the primary audience’s needs are more likely to be used.
Sample Audience Analysis:
We will prepare this technical description for the employees of Corporation X. This population ranges in age from approximately 22 for recent college graduates to about 70 for our semi-retired part-timers. The gender ratio of the corporation is fairly evenly divided, approximately 40% female and 60% male. All readers will have at least a high school diploma or the equivalent, and several members of the management have MBAs. The corporation includes many different ethnicities: approximately 40% Asian, 30% white, 10% black, 10% Hispanic, and 10% other.
This product uses completely new technology; therefore, we do not anticipate having any experienced users. We expect that employees who play video games on their break will embrace the new technology, while those who dislike email and instant messaging will resist it. We anticipate the engineers and designers will need only a quick start guide; however, management and human resources will need detailed directions, background, and definitions
The purpose of technical reporting is to give the audience something valuable. Whether you are creating a technical description or a persuasive proposal, if the audience does not understand it or doesn’t read it, the purpose will be lost.
Be an audience-centered writer and ask these three questions before drafting:
1. “Who am I writing for?”
2. “What do I want them to know, believe, or do because of my document or presentation?”
3. “What do I want this document to accomplish? What do I want readers to do?”
Some technical fields are predominantly male (e.g. IT); others are female (Vet Tech). If you are targeting the opposite gender in a document or both genders out of a single-sex dominant culture, keep in mind:
Gender differences relate more to culture or sub-culture than to biology.
Females are more people-oriented in getting information; males are more “thing” oriented. Consider the implications for document organization.
Men may feel communication should “get to the point”; women may feel that approach is too direct and cold. It’s hard to relate to information that does not meet your expectations for tone and organization.
Meet the expectations of the culture who the document is targeting.
By tailoring writing in content, language, organization, and amount of detail, to the target audience you have identified.
Be specific in picking an audience—don’t assume everyone who can read English will need or want to read the info. Identify why a target group would want the information—and organize your document around those needs.
Talk to your audience, not at them. Change your vocabulary to fit the knowledge of your target audience.
Begin your documents with a clear statement of purpose and clear indications of what the document does and doesn’t contain, to connect with the reader’s needs right away.
Along with audience, purpose shapes the writing situation of the document. In most cases, writers can express the purpose of the document in a sentence (for example, “This document explains how to upgrade the operating system on your computer”).
After assessing the writing situation, writers should determine how the purpose will affect the scope, structure, organization, sentence structure and length, vocabulary, and tone of the document. Keep in mind that a document may have multiple purposes or different purposes for different audiences.