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WEEK THREE: ANALYZING AUDIENCE AND PURPOSE I’ve said it a few times in this class – the most important rule in technical communication is analyzing your audience. It really doesn’t matter how fabulous your document looks or how well it is written; if you tailor it to the wrong audience…they won’t get it and it won’t work. This week, we take a look at how to analyze your audience and define your purpose. The terms audience and purpose are pretty much self explanatory, but just to make sure we are all on the same page, I will define them. The audience is the group of people who will be reading or using your document. The purpose is the reason behind the document – the reason you create it. Audience and purpose determine everything about how you communicate on the job. Understanding who your audience is and what the purpose of the document is helps you meet your readers’ needs. HUMAN FACTORS IN TECHNICAL COMMUNICATION: Let’s face it, we are all human – which means that the document you create will be read and used by other humans. As humans, we all have inborn mechanisms that govern how we comprehend information. If you understand some of those mechanisms, you can tailor your document so that it meets your audience’s needs. Leonardo da Vinci said “All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.” Essentially, what that means is that every piece of knowledge we have, all the information we take in, is colored by our perception. There are two factors that influence how we process information. Perception is one of them. Sensation is the other. Perception and sensation represent polar opposites of a continuum by which we gather, store, retrieve and apply data. Basically, everything we think or do involves this continuum. First we’ll look at sensation. SENSATION: Sensation is the physical part of collecting data. It is how we physically collect information. We use our senses to collect or gather the data. We need four things to collect sensory data: 1. A stimulus in the world 2. A sensory organ that takes the data and encodes it into a neuronal impulse 3. A nerve pathway to carry the neuronal impulse to the brain 4. An area of the brain to receive and process the neuronal impulse. By now you might be going “Huh? Is this a writing class or an anatomy class?” I find that I understand things a lot better if I have an example to refer to, so here’s an example of sensation. You see a stop sign. The stimulus is the stop sign, and the sensory organ you use to receive that stimulus is visual – your eyes. Your eyes push that visual down the nerve
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pathways to your brain. Your brain receives and processes the shape of the sign, the color, and the fact that it’s sitting at an intersection, and presto – the brain recognizes it as a traffic sign. PERCEPTION:
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