Principle 1: ANALYZE YOUR AUDIENCE
We are using the analogy of good design/writing principles to help you understand in your own professional terms how to view good writing objectively. The reason we are presenting good writing principles in this way (on your, our readers’, terms) relates to important tenets in both visual and written communication: • Analyze your reader before creating your message • Use your reader’s needs and expectations to guide you when you create, revise, and edit your message The information you derive from your own reader analysis should drive your choice of information, development of the message, and its tone. Here are the key questions you should ask when analyzing your reader: 1. Who will be reading this? (These questions will help you to write in an appropriate tone and vocabulary.) • A current client, a prospect, a potential employer, a supplier? • Will more than one person be reading my message? Is there a gatekeeper who may or may not pass on my message to the decision-maker? Or will this go to various potential investors? • What is our relationship? Will I be writing to someone on my level, above me, or below me on the ladder? Is my reader a colleague or peer on my approximate level? A principal, partner, or supervisor? Someone, whose work I supervise? • Are we from the same culture? Do we share the same language, expressions, customs, and values? 2. What does my reader already know/need to know? (Figure this out to create a message that is easy to follow.) • How familiar is she with design terms and processes? To what degree do I need to write nontechnical explanations, comparisons, and summaries? • Is my subject new to him? Will I have to explain past decisions and contractual conditions? • Will she need an update? Should I write an introductory paragraph or clause that briefs him on recent occurrences? • Will he need to be reminded of background information? Is she a busy client or distracted supervisor who needs a tactful reminder about information she might not recall? 3. What are the benefits of approving, complying, or responding quickly? (Focus on the reader’s needs when you phrase your request or proposal.) • Better profitability? • Cost savings? • Enhanced image? 4. What objections do I expect? Some messages contain less-than-welcome news. Anticipating your reader’s reactions will help you to formulate your message in an empathic manner. (See page 171 for finessing strategies.) • Resistance to a routine cost increase? • Exasperation over a delivery delay? • Irritation upon learning there’s a snag in a current project? 5. What do I want my reader to do after reading my message? (Don’t expect him to guess the necessary response. Spell it out. Be clear, direct, and specific about your expectations.) • Do I want her to approve my design or send me additional materials or information? • Do I want him to acknowledge my message, or review it and send it to another individual or department? • Do I want her to take immediate action or simply take note and file my message?