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Audience and Authors
At the conclusion of this chapter, students should be able to
identify the basic skills required of a technical editor;
understand the similarities and differences between technical writing and technical
conduct an audience analysis;
understand the importance of maintaining strong writer-editor relationships;
apply proven strategies for effective editorial feedback.
One should aim not at being possible to understand, but at being
impossible to misunderstand. Quintilian
In their rush to produce or edit text, it’s easy for novices to overlook one of the most
important considerations: conducting an audience analysis. Failure to understand the nature of
those who will be reading the text frequently leads to making assumptions that may result in
reader confusion and uncertainty. Just who is the intended audience, and how do their
backgrounds and interests relate to the subject matter? We suggest you spend some time having
your students conduct audience analyses on a variety of document types from textbooks, trade
magazines, technical documents, and even novels they have previously read. Time spent on this
activity, we believe, will greatly affect the quality of your students’ writing and editing.
Also, we suggest your students conduct a “writer” analysis where they assume they are
editing a technical document, but have to confront different types of personalities. For example,
how will they approach a difficult writer and recommend editing changes? Or, suppose a writer
remains aloof and will not return edited work on time? Ask your students to complete the
scenarios in Exercise 2.1 from their text and then develop other scenarios they might encounter.
1. Have your students define the three models for strategy one, paired patterns, and then
construct three of their own examples. You may want them to share their responses
with the class.
2. Similar to the exercise for strategy one, paired patterns, instruct your students that
they are going to have a quiz on strategies two through five. First they will have to
define hedges, bald-on-record, locution-derivable, and interrogative syntax. Then,
they will need to provide three examples of each below the definition. Be sure to
suggest they use downgraders with the bald-on-record.
3. Using the strategies above, ask your students to provide constructive comments to the
writer of how he or she could simplify the following paragraph. Then, have your
students write a simplified version.
Investigators at the contractor will review the facts in your case and decide the
most appropriate course of action. The first step taken with most Medicare health care
providers is to reeducate them about Medicare regulations and policies. If the practice
continues, the contractor may conduct special audits of the provider‟s medical
records. Often, the contractor recovers overpayments to health care providers this
way. If there is sufficient evidence to show that the provider is consistently violating
Medicare policies, the contractor will document the violations and ask the Office of
the Inspector General to prosecute the case. This can lead to expulsion from the
Medicare program, civil monetary penalties, and imprisonment.
We will take two steps to look at this matter and determine if it was an error or fraud.
We will let you know the result. (from plainlanguage.gov)
4. In class, ask your students to name a magazine they subscribe to or enjoy reading.
Ask them to suggest the magazine’s target audience by age, income, level of
education, gender, employment status, and family status. Repeat this activity until the
students feel comfortable conducting an audience analysis. They may even want to
research the publications on the Internet.
5. The following is a bill submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives concerning
health care. Ask your students to edit part or all of it for readability and while editing,
use the various commenting strategies outlined in the text. Students should be able to
identify which strategies they use.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
February 24, 2009
Mr. LANGEVIN submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was
referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce
Expressing the sense of Congress that any effort to reengineer the healthcare
system in the United States should incorporate sustainable wellness
programs that address the underlying causal factors associated with chronic
Whereas increases in costs related to providing health care for an aging
population and the increasing number of people with chronic disease create a
crisis for the healthcare system in the United States;
Whereas 23,600,000 individuals in the United States have been diagnosed
with diabetes and 57,000,000 have been diagnosed with prediabetes;
Whereas 70,000,000 individuals in the United States have some form of
cardiovascular disease, which is responsible for nearly 40 percent of all
deaths in this country;
Whereas 64 percent of all individuals in the United States are overweight and
more than 30 percent are obese;
Whereas overweight and obese individuals are at increased risk for
developing many diseases, including cardiovascular disease and type 2
Whereas individuals in the United States are increasingly using lifestyle
changes, including diet, exercise, smoking cessation, and stress reduction, to
decrease their risk of developing serious healthcare problems and to restore
Whereas low-income families face an increased risk of developing chronic
disease and do not have the resources necessary to avoid developing serious
health problems related to such chronic disease;
Whereas there is a growing body of evidence that wellness programs that
promote lifestyle changes can diminish the incidence and severity of chronic
disease, provide a substantial return on investment, and reduce reliance on
the conventional medical care system; and
Whereas the Federal Government has a responsibility to reengineer the
Nation’s healthcare system to allow for the provision of adequate health care
for future generations: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress
should ensure that any reengineering of the healthcare system in the United
(1) incorporates sustainable wellness programs that address the underlying
causal factors associated with chronic disease;
(2) ensures that the public has access to strategies for improving individual
health and increasing individual capacity to engage in activities of daily
living through lifestyle change, including strategies relating to diet,
exercise, smoking cessation, and stress reduction;
(3) provides patient-centered care–
(A) that addresses personal health needs; and
(B) that uses a multidimensional approach to encourage patients to
improve their own wellness through lifestyle changes and the use of
scientifically based therapies and outcomes-based treatments that
facilitate the inherent ability of the human body to maintain and
restore optimal health; and
(4) utilizes clearly defined standards to determine when the implementation
of wellness and health promotion activities will be useful for each
patient based on the diet, exercise habits, individual health history,
and family health history of the patient.
Books and Articles
Barnum, Carol M., and Saul Carliner, eds. Techniques for Technical Communicators. New
York: Macmillan Publishing Company. 1993.
Boiarsky, Carolyn, Barbara Northrop, Laurel Grove, Marianne Phillips, Lisa Myers, and
Patricia Earnest. “Men‟s and Women‟s Oral communication in technical/scientific fields:
results of a study.” Technical Communication 42: 451-59. 1995.
Floreak, Michael J. “Designing for the Real World: Using Research to Turn a „Target
Audience‟ into Real People.” Technical Communication 36: 373-81. 1989.
Miller, Casey, and Kate Swift.. The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, 2nd ed., New York:
Harper and Row, 1988.
Schwartz, Marilyn. Guidelines for Bias-free Writing. Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
Wagner, Carl G. “The Technical Writing Audience: A Recent Bibliography.” Technical
Writing Teacher 14: 243-63. 1987.
How to Conduct Audience Analysis
Audience Analysis Overview http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/629/01/
Elements of Audience Analysis http://core.ecu.edu/engl/henzeb/5780/audanal.htm
Audience Analysis http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/Fall02/Locke/audience.html
Online Technical Writing course, audience analysis
Chapter 2 Quiz
Circle the best answer for the following questions.
1. Technical editors’ responsibilities
a. are usually very specific to an organization.
b. usually vary widely.
c. are usually confined to individuals who have only technical editing backgrounds.
d. have diminished during the Age of Technology.
e. are less important than the writers’ responsibilities.
2. What is the first step in conducting an audience analysis?
a. determining a demographic of the readership?
b. determining the type of audience?
c. determining the purpose of the document?
d. determining the readers’ motivations?
3. True or False
__________ It’s safe to assume that all companies have clearly defined guidelines that
distinguish individual responsibilities and how much ownership a writer has over a
4. True or False
__________ Occasionally a technical editor may find it necessary to deviate from the
company’s publication style when editing a document for readability.
5. True or False
__________ When meeting with a writer, it’s a good idea to instruct the writer on errors
so he or she will not make those errors again.
6. Which of the following is not a useful tip for a technical editor supplying feedback?
a. Don’t be too precise or the writer’s feelings may get hurt.
b. Say something like “Frank, your description of the widget is poorly done.”
c. Edit but allow the writer to develop the solutions.
d. Tell “white lies” about the quality of the manuscript to boost the writer’s ego.
e. None of these are good suggestions to follow.
7. List the three paired pattern models for making suggestions to a writer.
Identify the strategy (hedge, bald-on-record, locution-derivable, interrogative syntax) used in the
8. ________________________ You ought to include a graph here.
9. ________________________ Do you think this would be better if you left out this
10. _______________________ Eliminate the first two paragraphs.
Answers to Quiz
7. Praise-criticism pattern
9. Interrogative syntax