Who is the Audience?
Technical communication begins with analyzing the intended readers, called the audience. Technical writers answer the following questions to analyze their audience before they begin writing:
✤ What does the audience already know?
✤ What does the audience want to know?
✤ What does the audience intend to do with the information?
In communication, the 'audience' is the person or group of people whom you expect to read your information. Even though writers do not know exactly who will read their documents, they can usually define an intended audience as technical, semi-technical, or nontechnical.
Technical audience includes those with technical experience and training, such as technicians and engineers. A technical audience understands fundamental concepts and jargon without definitions or background information. Readers expect the writers to use technical language efficiently and appropriately. For this audience, writers use technical terms and precise data to convey information.
Semi-technical audience has some technical training or works in the industry, but not directly in the field or related technical areas. This audience needs some explanations of concepts, abbreviations, and jargon. Writers use technical terms only if they are common in the company or industry. This audience might need an orientation to the subject and explanation or interpretation of the terms and information.
This type of audience is the general public, an unknown audience, or any combination of technical, semi-technical or nontechnical readers. This audience expects a clear organization that progresses from the background to the new information, with examples or illustrations to explain points that may be confusing. For this audience, writers provide the most comprehensive treatment of the subject such as common terminology, simple language, a full background and orientation to the subject, and a complete discussion of the main points. To simplify difficult concepts, writers often compare technical processes to more familiar ones through analogies and metaphors.
The audience, whether technical or general, might want only the highlights of the information. Or the audience might want detailed information including the background, procedures used, visual aids, data tables, and your conclusions.
People read technical information for a purpose. Sometimes that purpose is simply for general interest. Other times, the audience wants to follow the procedures, solve a problem, or make a decision. Writers must anticipate questions and provide the organization and details this audience needs.
Generally, writers sometimes make false assumption about their audiences as:
✤ The audience speaks and reads English.
✤ The audience will read the complete report or manual.
✤ The audience will remember what they tell them.
✤ When listeners or readers don't understand, they will ask questions.
Thus writers have to be careful about the audience before presenting their writings.