Unit-2 Technical Communication-Theory

Unit-2-Audience Analysis


2.1 Introduction


2.2 Basic Classification of Readers

2.3 Types of Audiences

2.4 Research on Readers

2.5 Audience Analysis

2.6 Audience Adaptations

2.7 Audience Profile Sheet

2.8 Summary

2.9 Terminal Questions

2.10 Answers

2.1 Introduction

All technical communication is done with a particular end in mind. The purpose is usually to facilitate the communication of ideas and concepts to the audience, but may sometimes be used to direct the audience in a particular course of action. The importance of the audience is in the notion that meaning is derived from the audience’s interpretation of a piece of work. The purpose may be something as simple as having the audience understand the details of some technological system, or to take a particular action using that system.

The identification of the audience affects many aspects of communication, from word selection and graphics usage to style and organization. A non-technical audience might not understand, or worse yet, even read a document that is heavy with jargon, while a technical audience might crave extra detail because it is critical for their work. Busy audiences do not have time to read an entire document, so content must be organized for the ease of searching, for example by the frequent inclusion of headers, white space and other cues that guide attention. Other requirements vary on the needs of the particular audience.


After going through the unit, you will be able to:

· distinguish between the types of audience

· judge the needs of audience in effective technical communication

2.2 Basic Classification of Readers

Readers are often classified into two categories:

2.2.1 Primary Audience: consists of people who have a direct role in responding to your documents. This includes people who use your information in doing jobs. They might evaluate and revise your document, or they might act on your recommendations. For example, Distance Education Learners depending on the Self Learning Materials (SLM) provided by the University for the preparation of University examinations.

2.2.2 Secondary Audience: consists of people who need to know what is being planned, such as sales people who want to know where a new facility will be located, what products it will produce, and when it will be operational. A secondary audience does not have a direct role in responding to your document.

Identification of multiple audiences indicates that multiple concepts may need to be communicated. Pfeiffer and Boogerd suggest planning for this situation by first identifying the following for each audience:

· Purpose

· Needed information

· Educational background

With this information, important needs can be satisfied in a way that caters to all. If this is not possible, audiences may be prioritized by importance, and the most important audiences served first. Remaining audiences can be served by including clearly denoted content within the text, such as the advanced topic sidebars (information in highlight boxes) that frequently occur in users’ guides.

2.3 Research on Readers

It is not important to know the real person you are writing for, but rather to have in your mind an archetype of your reader. An obvious starting place to start your research is by observing people from the target audience that you know personally to see what common attributes and attitudes they have. You are often writing for an audience of skilled engineers and technicians, who in all likelihood have a far greater understanding of theory than you have or are ever likely to have. What they want from your writing is clear and easy to find details.

Some of the questions you need to think about at this stage are concerned with finding common factors in their background, for example what is their educational background.

Tools we can use to help us in our research include:

· surveys and questionnaires

· personal experience

· popular opinion and stereotypes

· story telling about users

Without knowing who it is you are writing for, it is easy to be irrelevant. Knowledge of the target audience allows the writer to stay firmly "on message.” Your job as a technical writer is to serve others. You are a conduit for information. You have to transfer what is in the heads of the creators of the product, into the heads of the people using the product.

The language, organization, and level of detail you use depend on your reader. Your number one task is to understand what they actually need to know, and how they’re likely to best find that information when they need it in their life.

The marketing department usually has a clear idea of the intended buyers of the software. They should be able to describe them to you in some detail, including demographic information and what kinds of similar products they have used in the past. Getting this information is a good first step to understand your audience. If the marketing department doesn’t know this information, you may want to take the initiative and contact potential end users so you can interview them. You want to find out:

· Their level of experience with similar products.

· How they intend to use the software.

· The jargon they use in their work.

2.3.1 Environment and Expectations

If your intended audience is completely new to software, you may have to include quite elementary computer instructions in your materials; but most readers today have at least some familiarity with these topics, and there is no need to waste their time repeating it. By finding out how familiar the audience is with similar software, you save your time and the reader’s too.

Most people don’t buy software because they are interested in the names of all the buttons. Instead, they buy software so they can achieve a goal through completing specific tasks. So your instructions must concentrate on the steps they need to get to their goal.

Self Assessment Question (SAQ)

1. According to Pfeiffer and Boogerd, what has to be identified in planning multicultural situation for each audience?

a) Purpose b) Needed information c) Educational background d) all the above

2.4 Types of Audiences

One of the first things to do when you analyze an audience is to identify its type (or types – it’s rarely just one type). The common division of audiences into categories is as follows:

Experts: These are the people who know the theory and the product inside and out. They designed it, they tested it, and they know everything about it. Often, experts have advanced degrees and operate in academic settings or in research and development areas of the government and business worlds. The non-specialist reader is least likely to understand what these people are saying-but also has the least reason to try. More often, the communication challenge faced by the expert is communicating to the technician and the executive.

Technicians: These are the people who build, operate, maintain, and repair the materials that the experts design and theorize about. Theirs is a highly technical knowledge as well, but of a more practical nature.

Executives: These are the people who make business, economic, administrative, legal, governmental, political decisions on the material that the experts and technicians work with. If it’s a new product, they decide whether to produce and market it. If it’s a new power technology, they decide whether the city should implement it. Executives are likely to have as little technical knowledge about the subject as non-specialists.

Non-specialists: These readers have the least technical knowledge of all. Their interest may be as practical as technicians’, but in a different way. They want to use the new product to accomplish their tasks; they want to understand the new power technology enough to know whether to vote for or against it in the upcoming bond election. Or, they may just be curious about a specific technical matter and want to learn about it – but for no specific, practical reason.

2.5 Audience Analysis

It’s important to determine which of the four categories just discussed the potential readers of your document belong to, but that’s not the end of it. Audiences, regardless of category, must also be analyzed in terms of characteristics such as the following:

Background-knowledge, experience, training: One of your most important concerns is just how much knowledge, experience, or training you can expect in your readers. If you expect some of your readers to lack certain background, do you automatically supply it in your document? Consider an example: imagine you’re writing a guide to using a software product that runs under Microsoft Windows. How much can you expect your readers to know about Windows? If some are likely to know little about Windows, should you provide that information? If you say ‘no’, then you run the risk of customers’ getting frustrated with your product. If you say ‘yes’ to adding background information on Windows, you increase your work effort and add to the page count of the document (and thus to the cost). Obviously, there’s no easy answer to this question – part of the answer may involve just how small a segment of the audience needs that background information.

Needs and interests: To plan your document, you need to know what your audience is going to expect from that document. Imagine how readers will want to use your document; what will they demand from it. For example, imagine you are writing a manual on how to use a new microwave oven – what are your readers going to expect to find in it? Imagine you’re under contract to write a background report on global warming for a national real estate association – what do they want to read about; and, equally important, what do they not want to read about?

Other demographic characteristics: And of course there are many other characteristics about your readers that might have an influence on how you should design and write your document – for example, age groups, type of residence, area of residence, sex, political preferences, and so on.

Audience analysis can get complicated by at least two other factors: mixed audience types for one document, wide variability within audience, and unknown audiences.

More than one audience: You’re likely to find that your report is for more than one audience. For example, it may be seen by technical people (experts and technicians) and administrative people (executives). What to do? You can either write all the sections so that all the audiences of your document can understand them. Or you can write each section strictly for the audience that would be interested in it, then use headings and section introductions to alert your audience about where to go and what to stay out of in your report.

Wide variability in an audience: You may realize that, although you have an audience that fits into only one category, there is a wide variability in its background. This is a tough one – if you write to the lowest common denominator of reader, you’re likely to end up with a cumbersome, tedious book-like thing that will turn off the majority of readers. But if you don’t write to that lowest level, you lose that segment of your readers. What to do? Most writers go for the majority of readers and sacrifice that minority that needs more help. Others put the supplemental information in appendixes or insert cross-references to beginners’ books.

2.6 Audience Adaptations

Analyze your audience until you know them better than you know yourself. What good is it? How do you use this information? How do you keep from writing something that will still be incomprehensible or useless to your readers?

The business of writing to your audience may have a lot to do with in-born talent, intuition, and even mystery. But there are some controls you can use to have a better chance to connect with your readers. The following "controls" have mostly to do with making technical information more understandable for non-specialist audiences:

Add information readers need to understand your document: Check to see whether certain key information is missing – for example, a critical series of steps from a set of instructions; important background that helps beginners understand the main discussion; definition of key terms.

Omit information your readers do not need: Unnecessary information can also confuse and frustrate readers – after all, it’s there so they feel obligated to read it. For example, you can probably remove theoretical discussion from basic instructions.

Change the level of the information you currently have: You may have the right information but it may be "pitched" at too high or too low a technical level. It may be pitched at the wrong kind of audience – for example, at an expert audience rather than a technician audience.

Add examples to help readers understand: Examples are one of the most powerful ways to connect with audiences, particularly in instructions. Even in non-instructional text, for example, when you are trying to explain a technical concept, examples are a major help – analogies in particular.

Change the level of your examples: You may be using examples but the technical content or level may not be appropriate to your readers. Homespun examples may not be useful to experts; highly technical ones may totally miss your non-specialist readers.

Change the organization of your information: Sometimes, you can have all the right information but arrange it in the wrong way. For example, there can be too much background information up front (or too little) such that certain readers get lost. Sometimes, background information needs to be woven into the main information – for example, in instructions it’s sometimes better to feed in portions of background at the points where they are immediately needed.

Strengthen transitions: It may be difficult for readers, particularly non-specialists, to see the connections between the main sections of your report, between individual paragraphs, and sometimes even between individual sentences. You can make these connections much clearer by adding transition words and by echoing key words more accurately. Words like "therefore," "for example," "however" are transition words – they indicate the logic connecting the previous thought to the upcoming thought. You can also strengthen transitions by carefully echoing the same key words. You’ll learn more about these in unit 5.

Write stronger introductions both for the whole document and for major sections: People seem to read with more confidence and understanding when they have the "big picture" – a view of what’s coming, and how it relates to what they’ve just read. Therefore, make sure you have a strong introduction to the entire document – one that makes clear understanding of the topic, purpose, audience, and contents of that document. And for each major section within your document, use mini-introductions that indicate at least the topic of the section and give an overview of the subtopics to be covered in that section.

Create topic sentences for paragraphs and paragraph groups:. It can immensely help the readers immensely to give them an idea of the topic and purpose of a section (a group of paragraphs) and in particular to give them an overview of the sub-topics about to be covered.

Change sentence style and length: How you write – down at the individual sentence level – can make a big difference too. In instructions, for example, using imperative voice and "you" phrasing is vastly more understandable than the passive voice or third-personal phrasing. For some reason, personalizing your writing style and making it more relaxed and informal can make it more accessible and understandable. Passive, person-less writing is harder to read – put people and action in your writing. Similarly, go for active verbs as opposed to ‘be’ verb phrasing. All of this makes your writing more direct and immediate – readers don’t have to dig for it. (See Unit 5, Technical Writing style)

Work on sentence clarity and economy: This is closely related to the previous "control" but deserves its own spot. Often, writing style can be so wordy that it is hard or frustrating to read. When you revise your rough drafts, put them on a diet-go through a draft line by line trying to reduce the overall word, page or line count by 20 percent. (See Unit 5, Technical Writing style)

Use more or different graphics: For non-specialist audiences, you may want to use more graphics – and simpler ones at that. Writing for specialists and experts tends to be less illustrated, less graphically attractive – even boring to the eye! Graphics for specialists tend to be more detailed, more technical. In technical documents for non-specialists, there also tend to be more "decorative" graphics – ones that serve no strict informative or persuasive purpose at all.

Break text up or consolidate text into meaningful, usable portions: For non-specialist readers, you may need to have shorter paragraphs. Notice how much longer paragraphs are in technical documents written for specialists. (Maybe a 6- to 8-line paragraph is the dividing line.)

Add cross-references to important information: In technical information, you can help non-specialist readers by pointing them to background sources. If you can’t fully explain a topic on the spot, point to a book or article where it is.

Use headings and lists: Readers can be intimidated by big dense paragraphs of writing, uncut by anything other than a blank line now and then. Search your rough drafts for ways to incorporate headings – look for changes in topic or subtopic. Search your writing for listings of things – these can be made into vertical lists. Look for paired listings such as terms and their definitions – these can be made into two-column lists. Of course, be careful not to force this special formatting – don’t overdo it.

Use special typography, and work with margins, line length, line spacing, type size, and type style: For non-specialist readers, you can do things like making the lines shorter (bringing in the margins), using larger type sizes, and other such tactics. Certain type styles are believed to be friendlier and more readable than others.

Understanding Multiculturalism: Our workforces are becoming increasingly diversified culturally and linguistically, and our business are relying more on exports. Technical writers need to communicate effectively with various groups like non-native English speakers and groups with different values, custom and beliefs.

These are the kinds of "controls" that professional technical writers use to fine tune their work and make it as readily understandable as possible. And in contrast, it’s the accumulation of lots of problems in these areas – even seemingly minor ones – that add up to a document being difficult to read and understand.

2.7 Audience Profile Sheet

To analyze your audience, you have to create an audience profile sheet. You could then fill out the sheet for each primary and secondary reader if they are few in number. This helps technical writers to determine the best approach for their messages. Once they receive the profile sheet, technical writers make changes in the documents to suit the type of audience.


Reader’s Name:

Reader’s Job Title:

Kind of Reader: Primary





Professional Experience:

Job Responsibilities:

Personal Characteristics:

Personal Preferences:

Cultural Characteristics:

Attitude toward the Writer:

Attitude toward the Subject:

Expectations about the Subject:

Expectations about the Document:

Reasons for Reading the Document:

Way of Reading the Document:

Reading Skill:

Reader’s Physical Environment:

Self Assessment Question (SAQ)

2. To analyze your audience, ________________ plays a vital role.

a) Personal experience c) Audience Profile Sheet

b) Field Survey d) Opinion Poll

2.8 Summary

The identification of the audience affects many aspects of communication, from word selection and graphics usage to style and organization. Therefore, proper audience analysis by considering the types of audience, audience research, audience adaptability, will result in effective technical communication.

2.9 Terminal Questions (TQ)

What do you mean by

1. What’s Audience Analysis? Explain its significance in Technical Communication

2. Explain various audience adaptations?

2.10 Answers


1. d) All the Above

2. c) Audience Profile Sheet


1. Refer Sub Unit 2.5

2. Refer Sub Unit 2.6

Pronoun is used as a proxy to the proper noun to avoid repetition of the nouns. Suresh said that Suresh bought a new bike. In this case repetition of the proper noun ‘Suresh’ becomes redundant. It could be replaced by the pronoun ‘he.’ Suresh said that he bought a new bike.

You may come across usage of pronouns that are quite confusing.

I hit myself with the ball.

I myself hit the ball.

Both the sentences have the pronoun ‘myself’ but they mean different. The first sentence uses reflexive pronoun, whereas the second sentence uses emphatic pronoun.

Reflexive Pronouns: Here the action reflects back on the noun. When the subject and object refer to the same person, reflexive pronoun is used.

I must blame myself for this.

Behave yourself.

He killed himself.

Emphatic Pronouns: They are used to emphasize the subject of the sentence.

I myself will take you there

You yourself are to be blamed

Exercise 1: Pick out the Pronouns from the sentences given below:

i) I am afraid you may have to wait.

ii) Lubna come in. She was quite good looking.

iii) Have you been to Tokyo? Yes, it was very crowded.

iv) It is good to go to bed early and rise early.

v) One should be practical.

vi) Her parents are in Singapore and so are mine.

vii) She stretched herself flat on the sofa.

viii) These are not mine but those are.

ix) Someone should take up the responsibility.

x) Ting and Tang are jealous of each other.

xi) Look at the man in the car. He is the person who helped me in my difficulties.

xii) Who is the woman at the gate?


Relations Expressed by Prepositions

1. Preposition of Time: on, in, at, for, before, after, until, till, between, by, upto.

E.g.: She was healthy till yesterday.

2. Preposition of Place: to, at, from, away, on, onto, of, in, into, out, upon, inside, within, by, over, above, on top of, behind, in front of, below, beneath, across, through, all over, throughout, between, among. E.g.: Where do you come from?

3. Preposition of Method and Manner: by, with. E.g.: The boys skipped going to school with audacity.

4. Preposition of Reason and Purpose: with, of, for. E.g.: I rented a house for my holidays

5. Preposition of Possession: of, with, by. E.g.: The tomb of Akbar is in Sikandarabad.

6. Preposition of Direction and Motions: into, towards, up, round, across.

E.g.: They climbed into the lorry.

7. Preposition of Contrast: despite. E.g.: Despite his mistakes, he is a sincere worker.

Have these prepositions confused you? Check out their proper usage.

· beside, besides

a) The house is beside the river. (by the side of)

b) Besides being good at Tennis, he is also an excellent player of Golf. (in addition to/ moreover)

· since, for

a) He has been absent since Monday last. (point of time)

b) He was absent for four days. (length or period of time)

· between, among

a) I have to choose between the two pictures.(two persons/things)

b) This is the custom among the tribes. (more than two)

· by, with

a) He was killed by a servant. (doer of the action)

b) He was killed with a knife. (instrument of action)

· in, at

He lives at Juhu in Mumbai. (‘at’ - smaller area/ ‘in’- bigger area)

· in, into

a) He is in bed (indicates rest or motion inside anything)

b) He fell into the well (motion towards the inside of anything)

· on, upon

a) He sat on a chair (things at rest)

b) He lives on his maternal uncle (denoting support)

c) I wrote books on philosophy (denoting concern)

d) He jumped upon the horse. (Things in motion)

· in, within

a) The loan will be repaid in a year. (end of a period of time)

b) The loan will be paid within a year (any time before the specified period.)

· over, above

a) They saw the peaks towering above them (higher)

b) We hung the picture over the fire place (vertically above)

Exercise 2: Use the suitable preposition in the blanks:

i) It is almost time. Hurry up! The train will leave _______ five minutes.

ii) _____ the end of April, we go ______ holidays.

iii) _____ going to work _____ the morning. I take a heavy breakfast.

iv) My father leaves me ______ school his way to office ______scooter.

v) Beautiful resorts are coming up _____ the sea.

vi) You can hang grandfather’s portrait _____ the shelves.

vii) Do you mind taking your _____ the table.

viii) When I saw my friend, I was walking _____ the road _____ my dog.

ix) A beautiful butterfly flew _____ our window and landed _______ my bed.

x) Could you help me put this film _____ the camera?


Exercise 1: Pick out the Pronouns from the sentences given below:

i) I, you

ii) She

iii) You, it

iv) No pronoun

v) One

vi) Her, mine

vii) She, herself

viii) These, mine, those

ix) Someone

x) each other

xi) He, me, my

xii) Who

Exercise 2:

i) It is almost time. Hurry up! The train will leave in five minutes.

ii) At the end of April, we go on holidays.

iii) While going to work in the morning. I take a heavy breakfast.

iv) My father leaves me at school on his way to office on scooter.

v) Beautiful resorts are coming up by the sea.

vi) You can hang grandfather’s portrait above the shelves.

vii) Do you mind taking your legs off the table.

viii) When I saw my friend, I was walking across the road with my dog.

ix) A beautiful butterfly flew through our window and landed on my bed.

Could you help me put this film into the camera?