Your audience is composed of individuals who have a wide range of interests and knowledge. However, for the purpose of your writing, you can place them into two basic categories:
- Specialists (e.g., CEOs, industry professionals) who have a deep (or technical) understanding of your topic, as well as the language
- Generalists (e.g., end users, general public) with a wide range of knowledge and experience, but not a deep understanding of the topic or language
Both groups should be interested in the main subject of your writing. But they will have different goals when reading your writing.
- Specialists do not need a lot of basic information or an introduction to the topic. They might prefer a high-level technical description, supporting facts and arguments, and a higher level discussion of the subject matter.
- Generalists want the background information, clear explanations of features and benefits, and definitions or descriptions of technical language or specific terms. They want to understand the subject and how it appeals to them.
Establishing your audience will guide the tone and attitude of your writing. Your writing must respect your audience’s level of knowledge and experience. You can develop appropriate examples and case studies that will speak to that audience. Avoid writing for both audiences at the same time (where possible) as you will not be able to meet both groups’ needs.
Ask the right questions to define your audience
To help evaluate your audience, answer the following questions:
- What does the audience know about the topic?
- What is the audience’s attitude toward the topic?
- Does the audience have interest in the topic, and why or why not?
- Why is the audience reading about this topic?
- What level of supporting information does the audience need to accept your position on the topic?
Knowing your audience will help to guide your writing and speak to them more effectively. If you can focus it even more to specific groups within the large group, so much the better. Understand and respect your audience in your writing, and you will achieve a greater response from your audience.
Need help with writing for your audience? Let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org.