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Describe Your Reader (Technical Writing Exercise)

Business Writing Exercise

Business Writing Exercise

Last week, we talked about the importance of audience analysis. If you don’t know who your readers are, you could waste a lot of time writing some really high quality content that has no value to them whatsoever.

So this week’s assignment is to tell us about your readers. I could call it a prewriting exercise, because you’re going to spend as much time thinking about it — polling or researching, maybe even waxing philosophical — as you will writing it.

Or…maybe not. Maybe you already know exactly who your audience is. If you’re writing a personal blog, maybe your audience is your Mom and a cousin you haven’t seen in eight years. If you only ever write for work, maybe your audience is Steve, a fifty-two-year-old middle manager who hasn’t worked in the field since his twenties, but he’s still got the gall to complain when you end a sentence with a preposition.

Whoever it is you’re writing for, their needs and their expectations become vital ingredients of your document, so take some time to figure it out. I’m sure you already do that, probably subconsciously, every time you write anything, but let’s formalize it. Write a page describing your readers. Tell us how technical they want your material to be, how much they’re willing to read at a time, which topics matter to them, and just what it is you have to offer.

Make it 200-400 words, and if it’s not terribly insulting, post it to your blog. Your assumptions about your readership aren’t just useful to you — they’re helpful to your readers, too. Your readers who don’t match your assumptions can interpret your content based on the variation, and your readers who do can tell you exactly how good of a job you’re doing.

Even if you’re not willing to share it, do the exercise. It’s good practice, and you’ll discover some things you’d never consciously thought about before. At the very least, tell us how that goes, down in the comments.

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