Your Audience and Purpose

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The first thing to ask yourself as you prepare a presentation or a piece of writing is, "Why am I writing this, what is my purpose?" The second is, "Who is my audience?" The measure of a successful document or presentation is how well the audience is able to understand the information presented, and then how well that understanding fulfills the intended purpose of the work.1

Before you begin, decide what you want your writing to accomplish. Do you want to inform the reader? Make a request? Perhaps you merely want to instruct, propose or recommend. Maybe your job is to persuade, or to document for the record.

Whatever your reason for writing, make sure you have defined it before you start, and have accomplished it by the time you finish. Then, consider who will read what you write. Are the members of your audience engineers, or the executives in charge of funding your project? Are they experts in the field with a strong knowledge of your subject, or are they the sales force charged with marketing your ideas?

Knowing your audience is a crucial step in the preparation of technical documents. Your communication, whatever its form, is designed to provoke a reaction. To get results, you must bridge the gap between what you know and what your audience knows.

Technical writers prepare many kinds of documents. Examples include:

  • Memos
  • Trip reports
  • Contracts
  • Articles
  • Newsletters
  • Tutorials
  • Patents
  • Lab reports
  • Specifications
  • Proposals
  • Repair manuals
  • User's manuals
  • Executive summaries

In EG, you will prepare four different kinds of technical reports. Make sure when you begin to prepare your assignments that you know your audience and your purpose.


1 Black, G., and Bly, R.W., The Elements of Technical Writing. New York: Longman, 1993

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