Knowing the Audience

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Knowing the Audience

Knowing the Audience

There are three reasons why it is important to know your audience when composing a business document. While you are planning your document, think about who your primary audience is and how they will react to your document.

Knowing your audience will:

  1. Help you determine how you will write the document.
  2. Provide you with guidelines on how much you need to write.
  3. Determine how formal or informal the writing will be.

The audience is anyone who will read the document. The primary audience is the actual person or group of people you are writing the document for. The secondary audience is anyone else who might read the document or will be affected by the contents of the document.

When you are creating the document you will keep the primary audience in mind, meeting their needs and expectations, while remembering the secondary audience, but not focusing on their needs and expectations.

How to Write the Document

Knowing as much as possible about the audience, including how they feel about the topic being presented in your document, will give you a good basis for the style of the writing and the presentation of the information.

Anticipate the questions your reader will ask and be sure to answer them within the document. The language you use in the writing will be dependent on who the audience is and what they know about the information being discussed. If they are unfamiliar with the topic, you will use more descriptive and explanatory language and fewer (if any) acronyms. Jargon specific to the topic will also not be a big part of the writing.

On the other hand, if the audience is very familiar with the topic, it is fine to use jargon and acronyms appropriate to the discussion as they will be understood by the reader.

How Much Information Needs to Be Included

If you know your audience is very busy, has only time to scan the information before making a decision, and will not spend a great deal of time laboring over the details, you would use a format that is short, easy to read, and contains only highlights or points of interest. Bullet points will work well for this kind of audience.

If your reader is someone who will have a lot of questions, or does not know a lot about the topic, you will need to include much more detailed information in the document. The length of the document depends on the content and how much information you need to include as well as what information the reader already has about the content. If you are introducing a completely new topic, you will want to include as much detail as necessary to get the desired message across to your reader.

The important thing to remember when trying to determine how much information is to be included is to address the readers at the level of their existing knowledge.

Formal vs. Informal Writing

How well do you know your reader? Is the reader someone you work with on a daily basis who is very familiar with you and your work? In that case, the document can be less formal than it would be if you don't know your reader.

The audience as well as the content will both play a role in the formality of the document. A memo or email will be less formal than a proposal for a new project, but both kinds of communication need to be written professionally and accurately.