Writing For Non-Technical Audiences

Audience Analysis Worksheet

As you've learned in many of the modules for this course, you have to understand your audience before you can communicate effectively. That principle is particularly true when you're dealing with lay audiences.

Experts may be willing and able to muddle through confusing prose or badly organized documents because they can draw on their own knowledge to "figure out" what you're trying to say and skim until they reach the information they need. But lay readers often have only your document; they can make sense of the information only to the degree that you enable them to make sense of it. They are depending on you to explain the ideas to them.

When analyzing a lay audience, you need to think more fully about their background, interests, and needs. In addition, for your Public Information article, you need to analyze the characteristics of the publication you're writing for so that your work fits the publication's standards and their readers' expectations. The Reader Analysis worksheet provides a good starting point, but the following questions address more specific information:

Audience Analysis

Once you've defined the publication clearly, consider its audience in a bit more detail:

  1. What background do they have regarding the topic? What can you reasonably expect them to know?
  2. What background do they need to understand the material you're presenting?
  3. What specific terms won't your reader recognize?
  4. What concepts won't they understand?
  5. What do they plan to do with the information you are providing (make a decision, form an opinion, make a purchase, perform a procedure, etc.)?
  6. What information must they understand to carry out that action?

As you begin to get a clearer picture of your audience - their goals, interests, and knowledge - you can begin to adapt not only your content, but your writing style to communicate effectively.

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Copyright 2001 - James Dubinsky, Marie C. Paretti, Mark Armstrong