One of the most important skills you can develop to enhance successful professional writing is to know your audience fully. I will be spending a lot of time over the next several modules emphasizing this need, including the requirement of a pre-writing cover sheet designed to help you take time analyzing your audience’s knowledge, attitude and purpose.
You need to realize that in professional communication, you often do not know your audience. However, you still need to take time to understand what your audience may know about your topic and how your audience feels about the topic and about you, the writer. As an example, I have provided below the Cover Sheet format in which I have assessed English 235 students. I do not know most of you, but I can estimate your knowledge and attitude toward English class based on past experience.
Take some time to study this form, and then try it on your own: analyze what you know about me: what is my knowledge toward the course; how do I feel about the course; how do I feel about students; and what do I hope to achieve as the teacher of this course.
See, you do know me, even if you have never met me.
ENGLISH 235- TECHNICAL WRITING MEYERS
Assignment: Assessing Audience
Organization: Clinton Community College
READER(S)/AUDIENCE (what person or group): English 235 Class
Position in organization: Students
Prior knowledge of this subject: Students have taken English classes throughout their education. They have passed freshman composition and have varying skills with the written language. They probably do not have a strong understanding of technical writing and the implications of professional communication in the working world.
Prior attitude toward this subject: Most students do not like English classes to begin with. Many are taking it because it is required for their program, and they probably wish they did not have to take it. Some are fearful of writing courses and have a negative perspective on having to do lots of writing.
Prior attitude toward me (the writer): Many students will be undecided about me as the instructor of this course, though some will already have an animosity toward any English teacher. Some will be hopeful that I present them with information that is relevant to their future careers. Many expect me to be prepared and professional in my presentations.
Reasons for reading (how reader will use document): They hope to become more familiar with English 235. They want to do well in the course and expect this information to benefit their overall work.
Probable response (action expected) to this: They will put the information to use and be more confident in their approach to technical writing. They will refer to it over and over again, and their grades will reflect their knowledge.
WRITER/SENDER (Name and section): Jeff Meyers – English 235
Position (for this writing): Instructor
Purpose for writing: To emphasize the importance of understanding your audience when writing professionally. To introduce the Cover Sheet. To start the class energetically.
Tone wanted here: Serious, encouraging, professional.
Type of document: Syllabus.
Order of information: General to specific.
Use of graphics: Charts to highlight important concepts such as grade schedule.
My source of information: Several years of experience; professional cover sheets used by several industries.