Unit 1: Audience Analysis
Imagine needing to make a phone call but not knowing what number to dial. Beginning a communications project without first establishing your audience is a lot like that phone call without a phone number. If you don't first know who you are communicating with, you can't determine what information they need and in what format. In this unit, we walk through the steps of audience analysis to determine who we are writing to, what they know, what they need to know, and the best ways to reach them.
When we first take on a writing project, we must first consider who we are communicating with. We should ask ourselves who they are, what they know, and what they need to know to take action.
After we conduct this audience analysis, the next steps in the process apply this analysis to writing choices. Different audiences require different approaches to word choice, tone, and formatting. We also use our audience analysis to anticipate issues and any concerns or questions the audience might have after accessing the communication we have created.
Completing this unit should take you approximately 7 hours.
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to:
- analyze an audience;
- select appropriate tone, language, and format to reach a given audience; and
- determine effective content for a message.
1.1: Audience Analysis
Read Section 3.4. Pay attention to the key takeaways regarding the ways to better understand your audience. Complete Exercise 1 to analyze yourself as an audience. Then use the same approach to identify an audience you may encounter professional or personally. How do their demographic traits influence their thinking and your ability to persuade or inform them?
In the workplace, oftentimes the person requesting that you prepare a document isn’t the intended or final audience for the communication, just as the professor in a class isn’t necessarily the final audience for a document. Once you have read this document, think of a recent time when you needed to communicate information or directions. Use your experience of this communication to answer the questions listed under "How Do I Identify My Audience and What they Want from Me?" Based on this analysis, what information did you need to provide to the audience for the communication to be effective?
Watch the video. Pay close attention to how the speaker breaks down what might motivate or be important to the intended audience for your message and how that might contrast with your own motivations or beliefs. Make sure you pause the video as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities.
- Make a submissionIn a page or more (150–250 words) analyze the audience-writer relationship for a policy change proposal between yourself and a supervisor. Identify the value differences, power differences, and social differences between you and your audience. How does the expertise and sensitivity of the audience affect their readiness to understand this communication? How does this analysis influence the content of your message?
1.1.1: Who are They and What do They Know?
- Read the sections on Types of Audiences and Audience Analysis. Imagine you need to recommend a supervisor the acquisition of a new tool, piece of equipment, or computer program in the workplace. Which category would your audience fall into: experts, technicians, executives or non-specialists? Is it possible that the request you need to communicate to could impact multiple audiences? How would the content and delivery change for each different audience?
1.1.2: What do They Need to Know or Do?
- This video makes a great point about what your audience needs to do after reading your communication. When we begin a writing project, we must identify what action we want our audience to take after engaging with our communication. What will motivate them to take that action? Identify a time when you needed someone to take action. How did you communicate with them to make sure you gained compliance? What factors within the audience did you consider in crafting that communication?
1.2: How does Audience Impact Delivery?
- Read this article. Focus on the aspects of tone, language, and appeals. Audience determines these three aspects in effective writing.
Review this section, which you read earlier. This time, focus on the suggestions on how to apply audience analysis to your writing task.
- Read this article. After you read, examine a recent piece of communication you have written or received. Based on the list of possible audience adaptations in the previous article, how would you revise this document to strengthen it based on what you have learned about audience analysis?
- Make a submissionThink of an email you have written recently. In a paragraph (50–75 words), explore what choices you made in terms of tone, language, and appeals for this audience? How would these elements need to change for a different audience?
1.2.1: Word Choice
- Watch this video and pause as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities. Consider the roles connotation, jargon, slang, idiom, sub-categorization, selectional restrictions, and confusing word pairs have in the revision of technical writing. Focus on how these word choices tie back to your audience analysis. Create a glossary of the major terms (connotation, jargon, slang, idiom, sub-categorization, selectional restrictions, and confusing word pairs) covered in this video, providing your own example for each and a brief discussion of how this will impact the choices you make as a technical writer.
- Both print and digital documents apply similar principles of design and formatting to make documents more readable. With these techniques in mind, examine documents you have received via post or email. What traits do these documents share? How do they differ? What catches your eye as you interact with these documents? How do they make use of contrast, repetition, alignment, proximity, minimalism or visuals?
This video explores the third leg of the rhetorical triangle: purpose. The purpose of a piece of communication is determined by its audience. Note the four purposes for professional communication: consulting, informing, valuing, and directing. Make sure you pause as needed to practice your understanding during the "Apply Your Knowledge" activities.
- Make a submission
In two paragraphs (150–250 words), examine two examples of communications you received in the workplace this week or those that you prepared – which of the four purposes applied? How does the purpose impact the content of the communication?
Unit 1 Assessment
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will conduct an audience analysis on two hypothetical letters, both soliciting donations. Answer these questions to plan for different audiences, and then compare your work to the sample responses to assess your own writing.
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will write a description of the type of tone, language, and format that an advertisement should take to engage its intended audience. Afterwards, you can compare your work to sample responses to assess your own writing.
- Receive a grade
In this assessment, you will write a revision to a policy change proposal that reflects value, power, and social differences. Afterwards, you can compare your revision to sample responses to assess your own writing.