Attitude’means the expectations that a reader has ‘when he or she reads a document. Any audience will have at least two attitudes involved in the communication situation: (1) feelings about the message and the sender, and (2) expectations of form. You must accommodate your documents to meet both these expectations.
Feelings about Message and Sender.
In terms of feelings, the audience’s relationship to the writer and the message can be described as positively inclined, neutral, or negatively inclined. If the audience is positively inclined, a kind of shared community can be set. up rather easily. In such a situation, many of the. “small details” won’t make as much difference – the form that is chosen is not as important, and the document can be brief and informal. Words that have some emotional bias can be used without causing an adverse reaction. Much the same is true of an audience that is neutral. A writer who has to send a neutral audience a message about a meeting or the results of a meeting might choose a variety of forms perhaps a memo, or just a brief note with the information on it. As long as the essential facts are present, the message will be communicated. However, if the audience is negatively inclined, the writer cannot shared community. The small details must be attended to carefully; things like spelling, format, and word choice become even more important than usual because negatively inclined readers may react to anything that Nets them vent their frustration or anger. Surprisingly, even such seemingly trivial documents as the announcement of a meeting can become a source of friction when the audience is negatively inclined.
Expectations of Form
Many audiences expect certain types of messages to have certain forms. For instance, a manager who wants a brief note to keep for handy reference may be irritated if he gets a long, detailed business letter. Or if an expert in electronics asks for information on a certain circuit, a prose discussion would be Inappropriate since it is customary to give that information by supplying-schematics and specifications. If an office manager has set up a form for reporting accidents, she will expect reports in that form. If she gets a different form, her attitude may change from neutral to negatively inclined. On the other hand, if she gets exactly the form that she specified, her attitude may easily turn from neutral to positively inclined. To be effective, you must provide the audience with a document in the form they expect.
Your audience affects the document you write. You must consider your audience in terms of the following: knowledge level, role in the situation, organizational distance, and attitude. Consider carefully your audience’s knowledge level. If your readers know the topic well, you mac use specialized term and refer to concepts without explaining them. If they know little, you must use terms they know, define terms they don’t know, and use strategies such as comparisons to help them gain knowledge. Also consider the audiences’ role, or how they will act in the situation. Will they use the document to take physical action or to make a decision? In addition consider the distance of your audience within your organization. Audiences
can be above, below, or on the same level as you, as well as near or far. In most cases, you give orders to levels below you and recommendations to levels above you. our documents will be more informal.with near audiences, and more formal with fa Your audience’s attitude may be positive, neutral, or negative. A positive attitude allows you to be more informal in tone and format. A negative attitude demands careful attention to tone, format, and the reader’s needs.
WORKSHEET FOR DEFINING AUDIENCE
1. In class, set up two role-playing situations. In each, let one person be the manager and two others employees in a department. In the first situation, the employees propose a change, and the manager is opposed to it. In the second, the employees propose a change, and the manager agrees but asks pointed questions because the vice-president disagrees. In each case, plan how to approach the manager, then role-play the situation. Suggestions for proposed changes include the following: switching to a four-day, ten-hour-perday week; starting an employee recreational free time; having a :awing to determine parking spaces instead of assigning spaces closest to the building to executives.
2. Review the directions for Exercise 1. In groups of three or four, agree upon a situation like those mentioned above. As a group write a memo requesting the change to a near audience. For the next class, each person bring a memo that requests the same change but addresses a far audience. As a group select the best individual’s memo and read it to the class.
3. Bring to class a piece of writing aimed at an expert or knowledgeable audience. In groups of three or four, rewrite the document for a less knowledgeable audience.
1. Interview one or two professionals in your field whose duties include writing.Ask a series of to discover the kinds of audiences they write for. Write a.memo summarizing your findings. Your goal is to characterize the audiences for documents in your professional area. Here are some questions that you might find helpful: What are two or three common types of documents that you write? (pre iosals? sets of instructions? informational memos? letters?) Do your audiences usually know a lot or a little about the topic of the do Are your audiences near or far from you within the organization? a love, at the same level, or below you? Do you ever write abou t the same topic to, different audiences? Do you ever write one document aimed at a multiple audience? Can you give specific instances of of the above?
2. Interview one or two professionals in your field whose duties include writing. Ask a series of questions designed to reveal the way audiences affect their writing, Prepare a memo summarizing your findings, Your goal is to describe how professionals change their writing based on their audiences. Here are some questions you might ask: What two or three types of documents do you commonly write? Do you try to find out who your audience is before or as you write? What questions do you ask about your audience before you write? Do you change your sentence construction, sentence length, or word choice based on your audience? If so, how? Do you ever ask someone in your intended audience to read an early draft of a document? Can you give examples of situations in which your awareness of your audience change~ your writing?
3. Write two different paragraphs about a topic that you know thoroughly in poor professional field. Write the first to a person with your level of knowledge. Write the second, to a person who knows Ii.tie about the topic. After you have completed these two paragraphs make notes on the writing decisions you made to accommodate the knowledge level of each audience. Be prepared to discuss your notes with classmates on the day you hand in your paragraphs. Your topic may describe a concept, an evaluating method, a device, or a process. Here are some suggestions:
4. Form yourselves into groups of three or four. If possible, the people in each group should have the same major or professional interest. Decide upon a short process (4 to 10 steps) that you want to describe to others so that they can carry out the process. As a group, write the process description. For the next class period, bring to class a memo that deals with the same topic but is aimed at an audience who must decide whether or not to implement the process. Agree upon the most effective memo and read it to the class .