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ASTC Insights 


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)

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)

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