Audience Analysis

Anticipating Audience Reaction

It is important to tailor the message to the audience, so the writer must identify the interests, needs, and personality of the audience.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the factors business writers must consider when anticipating audience reaction

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • For business writing, this includes taking into account whether the message is intended for a higher up or a subordinate, and a singular person or a group of people.
  • Once the writer determines who the audience is, it is time to consider what reaction the message will generate. If the writer anticipates a positive response, the language of the message can direct.
  • When anticipating a negative reaction, the writer must use a great deal of persuasion. This can include using expert opinion and external evidence for support.
  • It is essential to pay attention to the tone of the message, because it is a good indicator of how the reader will feel while reading the message.

Key Terms

  • tone: The manner in which speech or writing is expressed.
  • reaction: An action or statement in response to a stimulus or other event.

Anticipating Audience Reaction

When writing a message, it is important to tailor the message to the audience. In order to do so, the writer must identify the interests, needs, and personality of the audience. For business writing, this includes taking into account whether the message is intended for a higher up or a subordinate, and a singular person or a group of people.

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Impartial Language: In business writing, it is important to communicate the message using impartial or unbiased language.

Once the writer determines who the audience, it is time to consider what reaction the message will generate. If the writer anticipates a positive response, the language of the message can direct. On the other hand, if the writer anticipates a neutral reaction to the message, it is necessary to use language that is more persuasive. Writing a message when the anticipated reaction is a negative one requires the most effort. In this case, the writer must use a great deal of persuasion. This can include using expert opinion and external evidence for support.

The Role of Tone in Audience Reaction

It is essential to pay attention to the tone of the message, because it is a good indicator of how the reader will feel while reading the message. A professional, yet friendly tone makes the writer sound both professional and approachable. Keep in mind that the best messages rely on words that will have a positive impact on the tone of the message. One way to do this is to put the focus of the message on the receiver. This can be achieved by using second-person pronouns throughout the text. This shows that the writer has empathy toward the reader.

Another technique involves using bias-free language, which means the message should be free from gender, race, age, and disability bias. Improperly chosen words can contribute to an overall negative tone and make an otherwise innocuous message sound unpleasant. It is a good idea to use positive words and avoid words that have negative connotations. The most effective messages use simple language and words that are precise, which prevents any miscommunication.

Dynamically Crafting your Message

The most important aspect of business writing is clear and concise writing that gets the message across in the best way.

Learning Objectives

Describe how to craft a clear and concise business message

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The opening sentence or section or business writing takes on a special importance. It helps to establish the frame of mind readers bring to all the sentences and sections that follow. It also grabs the attention of viewers and keeps them focused until the end.
  • The most important function of the beginning is to persuade your readers to devote their full attention to your message rather than skimming it or setting it aside unfinished.
  • Unless your communication is very short, its beginning should tell readers what to expect in the segments that follow. A forecasting statement positioned at the beginning of a communication should focus its organization and scope.
  • Readers’ expectations and preferences about the beginning of a communication are shaped by their culture.

Key Terms

  • unethical: Not morally approvable; morally bad; not ethical.
  • scope: The breadth, depth, or reach of a subject; a domain.

Crafting the Message

Writing is a dynamic interaction between readers and authors. The response of readers to one sentence or paragraph can influence their reactions to all the sentences and paragraphs that follow. Consequently, the opening sentence or section takes on a special importance. It helps to establish the frame of mind readers bring to all the sentences and sections that follow. It also grabs the attention of viewers and keeps them focused until the end.

Give Your Readers a Reason to Pay Attention

The most important function of the beginning of the message to persuade readers to devote their full attention to your message. At work, people complain that they receive too many e-mails and reports. Your goal is to convince them to pay close attention to the message.

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Know Your Audience: Give your readers a reason to pay attention.

Tell Your Readers What to Expect

Unless your communication is short, its beginning should tell readers what to expect in the segments that follow. A forecasting statement positioned at the beginning of a communication should focus its organization and scope. This will serve a couple of purposes. First, it will narrow the reader’s attention to only what needs to be addressed. Second, it will deter some of the readers to whom you are not intending to write. This could help in avoiding lawsuits.

Tell about Your Communication’s Organization

By telling your readers about your communication’s organization in your beginning, you provide them with a framework for understanding the connections among the various pieces of information you convey. This framework substantially increases your communication’s usability by helping your readers immediately see how each new point you make relates to a point that they have already read. It also helps skimming readers navigate quickly to the information that they are seeking.

Tell about Your Communication’s Scope

Readers want to know from the beginning what a communication does and does not contain. Even if they are persuaded that you are addressing a subject relevant to them, they may still wonder whether you discuss the specific aspects of the subject that they want to know about. Often you will tell your readers about the scope of your communication when you tell about its organization: when you list the topics it addresses, you indicate its scope. There will be times however, when you will need to include additional information. That happens when you are not addressing your subject comprehensively or are addressing it from a particular point of view.

Encourage Openness to Your Message

Because the way you begin a communication has a strong effect on your readers’ response, you should always pay attention to the persuasive dimension of your beginnings. Always begin in a way that encourages your readers to be open and receptive to the rest of your communication.

Provide Necessary Background Information

As you draft the beginning of a communication, ask yourself whether your readers will need any background information to understand what you are going to tell them.

Include a Summary Unless Your Communication is Very Short

Summaries help busy managers learn the main points without reading the entire document, and they give those readers an overview of the communication’s content and organization. For longer communications, especially those that are long enough to have covers and tables of contents, these summaries are longer and often printed on a separate page.

Adjust the Length of Your Beginning to Your Readers’ Needs

There is no rule of thumb that tells how long the beginning should be. A good, reader-centered beginning may require only a phrase or may take several pages. You need to give your readers only the information that they don’t already know.

Adapt Your Beginning to Your Readers’ Cultural Background

Readers’ expectations and preferences about the beginning of a communication are shaped by their culture. The suggestions you have just read are suitable for readers in the United States and some other Western countries. However, customs vary widely. You must have good understanding of the communication customs of your readers’ culture in order to create an effective opening. If you do not have this understanding, do some research or seek out someone who is from that culture to ask him.

Ethics Guideline: Begin to Address Unethical Practices Promptly and Strategically

Suppose you learn that your employer is engaged in an action you consider to be unethical. Or you are asked to write something that violates your sense of what is ethical. Should you speak up or express your concerns in writing? New employees are sometimes advised to wait until they have achieved security and status before trying to bring about change. But that means you could spend years before addressing a practice you regard as unethical. Ignoring an unethical act would be seen as unethical in itself.