English
3880

Writing for Business and Industry

Fall
2017

 

Audience readings

Week 1 (jump to Week 2)

About technical writing

Comments

Readings

About technical writing

Voice

 

Audience

Comments

Readings

Audience

Voice

 

Writing and rhetoric

Comments

Readings

Rhetoric-PWO

Voice

 

Required information

Comments

“Required information” is any information the reader needs in order to understand the entire document. The required information will be different depending on the level of the reader. In addition to containing all the required information, good technical writing must contain correct information. That is, the document needs to contain information relative to its purpose.

Readings

 

Voice

Grammar

Comments

Making sure your document is grammatically correct is important because it is courteous to the reader. Just as inappropriate clothing can ruin a good job interview, poor grammar and spelling can ruin good technical writing. It is not only distracting, but indicates that you didn’t even take the time to proofread what you wrote.

However, perfect grammar does not mean the content is worthwhile. It is very easy to create an unreadable and unusable document that is perfectly structured grammatically.

Readings

 

Voice

 

When the author = audience

Comments

"If the purpose of the communication is to record information for the author's use then there is no target audience." In this case, the audience is the author, which is different from being told to record everything in case someone might want to look at it later.

The audience = author brings up the issues of how poorly most people realize how much they'll remember. You write short notes that make perfect sense now....but when you look at them in 4 months, they make no sense. Even writing for the author as audience requires figuring out what the audience will need.

Can you look at class notes from two semesters ago (in a class outside your main interests) and make sense of them now? They were good enough to study for the test then.

Readings

Write for the audience, not for you

Voice

Week 2

Experts and simply written material

Comments

Think about how much written technical (and business) information focuses solely on the expert level. I have read my fair share of technical scientific articles that were full of expert jargon that the average person could not understand. The more articles I read, the more I could interpret them. I often thought of the average person reading the articles and the confusion that would be experienced because of the lack of knowledge of scientific writing. The complex topics in most of the papers could be simply communicated to the average person by using terms that they understood. The scientific articles were designed to pass technical knowledge to the fellow scientist that could understand the terminology. A communication of the same article would break down the complex topics into language that the average person could understand.

If written the other way (using lots of definitions and breaking the material down into too-simple and already known stuff) you would loose the expert readers who are the audience for the article.

It is NOT true that you can write for novice and the expert will understand it too. Well, ok, they will, but they will also have a lower comprehension than of a document written for their level. Basically, it's too simple and they start skipping stuff.

Readings
Voice

Audience analysis

Comments

Understanding how to figure out what the audience needs and how it should be presented is a major element (perhaps the most important element) in effectively communicating.

Remember how a majority of business say that low communication skills are their major problem and how too many college graduates can't write. It's not really a lack of writing skills, but a lack of skill at figuring how how to structure the content for the audience.

Readings

Audience analysis

Voice

Audience versus client

Comments

The client pays you, but the audience actually reads/uses the information. Someone in contracts or purchasing may be the client buying the product, but it’s other people in the company who are the audience. As the example below shows, when the client is your boss and the audience is outside the company, it can get tricky.

Audience and client expectations can differ in a number of ways. The audience may prefer accurate and unbiased information, while the client may prefer to emphasize information that furthers their organizational and personal goals while leaving out less flattering information. On the other hand, the audience may be seeking information that confirms what they already believe or hoping that the information will be beneficial to them, while the client's ethical standards may dictate that the information be accurate even if that does not satisfy audience expectations. The client may want a document to be as detailed as possible to cover all of their bases, while the audience may be looking for a shorter and simpler form of the information.

A reason many user manuals are so useless is because the company (the client) sees them as a necessary evil to be created as cheaply as possible. They don't consider a quality product as worthwhile, but rather simply want to check the box: documentation included. The audience (you with your new product) have very different needs.


Here’s how a student described the issue in an earlier class.


 You bring up an interesting example with the financial reporting.  This could be a source of very serious conflicts in expectations between audience and client if you work for an accounting firm and complete reports for a publicly held company that isn’t performing well.  Clearly you have to report accurately to federal agencies, or go the way of Arthur Anderson, but a big client could put a lot of pressure on you to present a positive picture of the company for shareholders, who often get rid of officers who can’t meet financial objectives.  This is an example of business writing with high stakes and serious consequences if handled improperly.  I don’t know that the differing desires of the client and audience could be reconciled in this case.  The best approach might be to be forthcoming with all the negative information, but include a detailed plan for how to improve performance going forward.

Readings

 

Voice

comments on client vs audience../audience

 

Performing an audience analysis

Comments

The short (8 minute and 58 second), instructional YouTube video” PTC 620 - Lecture 4 - Audience Analysis” provides an informative overview of audience analysis – or systems for developing effective materials for different audiences.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y7CP8MirztQ

In the video, the speaker identifies different aspects to consider when identifying the audiences for written documents. The speaker also overviews different approaches or strategies for analyzing one’s audience in order to identify that audience’s expectations related to written documentation. The idea is that an effective analysis of one’s audience provides authors with the information needed to produce effective written documents for that audience. (While the focus of the video is written proposals, consider how the ideas covered in the video can be used for almost any written document.)

As you review this video, consider

1. How the ideas presented in the video compare and contrast with concepts of audience we’ve covered in the class readings thus far

2. Which of the approaches to audience analysis covered in the video you consider to be the most effective and why

3. How you might apply the ideas of audience analysis covered in this video in your own professional communication practices

4. How you might apply the ideas covered in the video when drafting your papers for this class

Readings
Voice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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