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Writing for your audience

​Can the "rules" of technical writing get in the way of the message?


When we talk to someone face-to-face, we know just who we are talking to. We automatically adjust our speech to be sure we are communicating our message. To be sure that we communicate clearly in writing, we need to adjust our content by recognizing that different readers understand different messages.


By Jason Xiros


It’s essential to consider your audience when writing. We need to adapt tone, language, and appeal to suit the project’s

  • audience

  • purpose

  • context

  • medium


Traditionally, excellence in technical writing is judged by clarity, accuracy, comprehensiveness, professional appearance, and correctness. There is an expectation that technical writing requires a certain degree of formality in the content.


Are there circumstances where that paradigm is wrong?


.

Whilst an obviously extreme example, the signage above targets its specific audience well; and conveys the required message in an engaging and memorable fashion.


Should we judge a safety bulletin on the formality of language used, or on the ability to communicate hazards and prevent accidents?


The shift to online media is also driving a reduction in formality... one Nielson Media study found users spend an average of only 12 seconds engaged with each web page.


A happy medium may be use of Simplified Technical English (STE) http://www.asd-ste100.org/


Originally introduced for use in aviation and defence, this provides a framework for unambiguous procedural and maintenance manuals (often targeted at users where English is not their primary language)



Disagree with this article?


Comment below and tell us why. ASTC encourages robust discussion.


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1 commento


Does the article show it is an example of catering to its audience - a group of technically minded people?


Here is a "clinical trial of one" answer. Which is better than having no response to what it asserts.


I accept the extreme example for what it is. A more informative comment would be to have asked the nursery why they did it. I expect the answer is to do with the memorable aspect of the sign in their paying customer's mind and the word of mouth advertising it could create in social interactions, such as BBQs and parties, with other potential paying customers. Whatever the answer, we as Tech Writers, could gain useful insights into how to think ab…


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