Audiences for business communications are often different across a spectrum of characteristics: demographics, education, authority, knowledge. These audiences are also different in terms of their relationship to you as writer – is it composed of peers, colleagues, superiors, subordinates, customers, clients? As a result of all these variables (and their cross- or intra-variable relationships!), business writing can often misfire in its conception of audience.
For this first part of this short Response Paper, then, you will begin the vital process of consciously and conscientiously determining, defining, and describing the audience for your different business communications.
Specifically, you are to think of ONE audience that, in your professional capacity, you either currently write to or anticipate writing to in the future. Be sure to choose a “real” audience. (It won’t be helpful for this assignment or for your future assignments in this unit to make up an audience that you can change however you’d like!)
In a paragraph of prose (i.e., no bullet points or lists), answer these four questions for your audience:
1. Who are they? (Peers, superiors, customers, location, demographics, etc.) Describe the audience in its own particulars as much as you can. Be specific. You might not know everything about the audience, in which case you’ll have to make reasonable assumptions. That’s fine.
2. What do THEY want from the writing, if anything? (To be informed, to be persuaded, to weigh options, etc.) In other words, don’t think in terms of what YOU want them to do with the writing, but think instead from their perspective. For example, YOU might want to convince a superior to take an action, but that is very different from what the superior herself might want from you (if anything) or why she might care about the communication (if she does at all).
3. What do they know? Think here not only about insider/outsider language (jargon, technical terms, abbreviations, and so on), but also about the level of vocabulary, and the complexity of syntax. Do they know thee same things as you, or less, or more? What is your audience’s general reading level? What informational context do they have or lack (e.g., in terms of history, current events, and so on)?
4. What do they expect about your “voice”? For example, how polite should your tone be? What sort of pose do they expect from you (supplicating, imperative, directive, hedging – whatever else might be appropriate)?
As we will discuss in class, thinking in terms of BOTH audience and purpose is vital, since each influences and inflects the other: we might write differently for the same audience depending on the purposes of different documents, and we might write the same way for different audiences if we have the same purpose in mind (and so on).
For this second part of the Response Paper, you’ll be thinking about the kind of purpose you might have for writing to the audience you described above.
Specifically, in a second paragraph, do the following:
1. Think of and describe a purpose that you would have for writing to this audience, such as writing to inform, writing to explain, writing to persuade, writing to direct, writing to request, and so on. Describe your purpose in as much detail as possible.
2. Describe the ways in which you would match form, tone, voice, formality (etc.) to BOTH the audience AND the purpose. For example, how would a communication meant to persuade an audience of colleagues differ in tone, style, and formality from a communication meant to direct the same audience to complete an action or to inform them of bad news?
In total, this Response Paper should consist of two paragraphs of about a half page each (double-spaced, as always). The entire Response Paper, then, should be about 1 to 1.5 pages in length.
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