Audience and Purpose

Technical writing has four distinct audiences for whom you may be writing for; expert, manager, technician, and layperson. It is necessary to adopt the correct tone and language when writing to these different groups in order for your writing to be effective. If you are not aware of your audience, your work is essentially useless because your purpose it is not going to be met if your audience does not understand what you’re talking about. Ask yourself these questions in order to identify who your audience and what your purpose is:

Why are you writing this document and what outcomes would you like to see? 

Your Audience’s Background
Who are your primary readers and what is your relationship with them (are they your supervisor, employee, client or supplier)?
What are your readers' positions and responsibilities?
How much do your readers know about the subject?
What are your readers' attitudes toward the subject? Why?
What are your readers' attitudes toward you? Why?
Do your readers have any specific communication preferences (e.g., terms they like/don't like, formats they prefer)?

Your Audience’s Goals
Why are they spending time on your document and how will they use the information you provide?
What questions will your audience have as they read your work?
Will your audience read your document in its entirety, mine for information, or skim?

Additional Readers and Stakeholders
Who else might read this document and what factors should you keep in mind regarding them?
Who will this document affect besides your readers and how will they be affected?

After you have asked yourself these questions, you’re ready to begin writing. After you’re done, ask yourself these questions to make sure you’ve hit your target:

  • Is the purpose clearly stated?
  • Does the document fulfill the purpose?
  • Is the audience clearly defined?
  • Does the document meet the audience’s needs?