Will My Audience Understand What I Am Writing?

Before you begin actually writing a technical document, one of the things you must consider is who you are writing the document for - in other words, who is the audience? The audience you are writing for will have either a limited, intermediate, or advanced knowledge of the topic depending on whether they are non-specialists, technicians, executives, or experts. Your job as a technical writer is to make sure that information is presented in an understandable manner that is appropriate for your audience's level of knowledge. As you review your document, ask yourself whether your intended audience will understand what you are trying to say. If you're writing for non-specialists with virtually no background knowledge of the topic, there are a few things you can do to make your document more accessible:

Define key terms: Don't assume that non-specialists will be familiar with industry-specific terms. Define them in a clear and concise manner without going into unnecessary detail.

Add background information: If you're developing a document for the general public on a new manufacturing process, it may be helpful to give a little background information to provide context. You could briefly touch on why the new process was developed and the weaknesses of past methods, for example.

Add examples and analogies: When you're discussing something that many people might find complex, try to think of something simple you could compare it to. Analogies can help people relate to what you are trying to say. Simplified examples are also a good choice.

Strengthen introductions: Experts may not need much of an introduction to most topics, but they're essential for non-specialists. Tell the reader what he is going to learn from the document and why it is important that he learn it. Depending on the length of the document, you might also add short intros before each major section.

Use shorter sentences: As a rule, shorter sentences are less confusing. Omit unnecessary adjectives, and break up overly long sentences into two or three shorter ones.

Include visuals: Many people can understand complex topics more easily when they are presented in a graph or other type of chart. Make use of visuals to explain information and relationships in a clearer and more accessible manner.

When you're analyzing your document, you also want to ensure that it isn't too simple for your audience. Experts, for example, likely won't need a lot of background information, definitions, or introduction to the topic. You may want to omit anything this type of audience will already be aware of to make the document more suitable. If you have doubts about whether you are writing at an appropriate level, you can always check with your client after you complete a section or two to see if you are on the right track.

Last Updated: 05/05/2014