Planning is crucial in most things we do if we want to be successful; oddly, however, whether doing technical, scientific, or business writing, many writers never take the time to plan their documents, either in terms of what they want to accomplish or how they should appeal to their readers. Instead, they write believing that that the first draft, with just a bit of tweaking and reorganization, will somehow become the final draft or, worse, that the first draft is the final draft.
Planning can take many forms, from outlining to freewriting to brainstorming, and everything in between. And while these techniques are useful and important,audience analysis is even more crucial. Analyzing our readers means understanding what's important to them, both in terms of how the topic is presented and how the information is organized, among other things. We've found in the workshops that we've taught that many writers "write for the person in the next cube," rather than taking the time to analyze their real readers. While writing for the person in the next cube can can make writing easier, this technique is also problematic because it means that the writer can make assumptions about the reader and doesn't need to consider
- What information the reader needs and why
- How the reader will use the information
- Reader expectations for the information, both in terms of content and organization
- Why the reader is reading
- The reader's role in the organization
- The biases/attitudes/beliefs of the reader
This list is not exhaustive by any means, but even using this short list as a planner as you prepare for your next writing task can go a long way toward making you more effective and efficient.