English
3880

Writing for Business and Industry

Summer
2014

 

Audience

Readings

Audience readings

Homework

Complete the Audience quiz in Blackboard. The quiz is open book (the browser is not locked down), but you can only take it once. The audience quiz closes at 5:00pm May 21.

 

Discussion questions

Post your answers to the discussion board on Blackboard. (discussion board expectations)

Background on writing a good response to the discussion questions

Too often, discussion question answers are little more than "you need to consider audience because audience is important." Besides being a rather circular argument, it also shows little in-depth understanding of the material. If you could have given the answer before you read anything, then your answer is too shallow. I've tried to ask open-ended question that support different viewpoints.

The Flexibility of the Four Stages of Competence

You have to figure out what stage you are at. The article also gives a basis for why I expect some critical thinking in the discussion responses.

I expect your initial post and responses to reflect an understanding of the material and not be a quick shallow response. Too many answers I see are quick responses that don't consider the implications. Or worse, they tend to be a repeat of a previous post, which makes me wonder if you have read the material. Short or repeating answers are too simplistic and providing answers of that quality assures you will be stuck at Unconscious Incompetence, without knowing it. And having you work at that level is definitely not a goal of the course. Some of the questions will have "weak answers" given. These answers are not wrong, but they are little more than either a restatement of the question or a shallow collection of generic statements. Your response must go beyond that.

Q1.

What makes good business or technical writing? Conversely, what makes business or bad technical writing?

Does good technical writing relate closely to any of the following ideas:

The text is grammatically correct?
It contains all the required information? (define what "all the required information" means)
All the information is correct? (define what correct information is)
It uses graphics?

What is the relative importance of these six points when it comes to claims that a document is a badly written technical/business document?

Note: The question here is not if good technical writing does contain these things, but the opposite....can someone say "It is technically correct and has graphics, therefore it is good technical writing." I also know some technical writers who consider it very important to go over a text multiple times to ensure there are positively no grammar errors (the content came from marketing or an engineer and the writer doesn't worry about the accuracy, but it must have perfectly written sentences). Is that good business or technical writing?

weak answer: This question often starts to get lots of responses like "if the spelling and grammar are bad, you lose credibility. True. That's not the question. Assume the spelling and grammar are correct. It's not about the obvious things that make a document bad, but can doing all the obvious things still result in a bad document. And why?

Q2.

The reading assignments stressed the need to understand the audience. A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences?

Examples

In the medical laboratory world the client can be a pathologist, medical director or hospital administrator who’s primary concern is meeting regulatory and accreditation requirements (this person approves the document). The audience is the bench level technologist or other health care providers, people who are actually doing something with the document.

In the corporate world, the HR person pays someone to write a set of procedures for entering weekly hours-worked and requesting vacation. HR is the client and the person working on the factory floor is the audience since they actually use the document to enter hours and request vacation.

You are the MBA program director and decide you need a new short document with title like "You've been accepted into the program....here's what you need to know.". So, your hire a writer to create this report.

You, as the MBA program director, are the client. There is nothing in the report that you don't already know....you supplied the information to the writer. You are not part of the audience of the report. Other than reading it for review/feedback, you will never read or use the document.

Your customers, the newly accepted students, are the audience.

Assuming I am developing a software for the call center reps (CCR). The CCRs are my audience, but the line of business (LOB) is my client. I interact with LOB for the software design and development. The strategy and requirement specifications come from my client, the LOB. When I write my technical document for the CCRs to follow and help their clients. But, my direct contact is LOB, not CCRs. I don’t know many details of the requirement from the CCRs. I learn their need from my LOB. Most of the time this constitutes a gap in actual requirement. As the requirement flows from CCRs to LOB to me. My technical document targets CCRs, but sometime it doesn’t solve the need of CCRs, because of the gap in the analysis.

weak answer 1: Expectations between the client and reader can differ across nearly every aspect of a technical writing. These differences can be in terms of length, content, use of graphics or data tables. To resolve these differences, a reconciliation between the two parties would need to be done to identify which expectations differ, and why. Once this is complete, identifying the expectations that carry more weight for either party should be evident and a set of blended expectations could be proposed. This outline was a formal process, certainly open informal dialog between clients and audience would be preferable depending on the importance of the technical writing its purpose.

weak answer 2: A goal of your writing must be to meet the audience's expectations with respect to detail, amount of explanation, and clarity of concepts. Yet, there are also the client expectations. The audience may be your reader, but the client is the person who pays you/is your boss. How can audience and client expectations differ? How do you resolve any differences? Once the writer has analyzed the audience, they have an excellent understanding of the audience's expectations, but the client may not have the same level of understanding. As a result of this, the expectations of the audience and client can differ greatly. The audience may want to have more information, but the client may want to keep the document brief. To resolve the difference in expectations, the writer can explain to the client their understanding of the audience and reasons for including details in the document.

 

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