Identify and write for your audience
You have to grab your audience's attention if you want to get your ideas across. Let's face it, people want to know just what applies to them. The best way to grab and hold someone's attention is to figure out who they are and what they want to know. Put yourself in their shoes; it will give you a new perspective. (Read Identify your users and their top tasks for more information.)
Tell your audience why the material is important to them. Say, "If you want a research grant, here's what you have to do." Or, "If you want to mine federal coal, here's what you should know." Or, "If you are planning a trip to Rwanda, read this first."
Identifying your audience will do more than ensure that you write clearly. It will also help you focus on the audience's needs. Start out by thinking about what your audience knows about the situation now. Then, think about how to guide them from their current knowledge to what you need them to know. To help you do this, try answering the following questions:
- Who is my audience?
- What does my audience already know about the subject?
- What does my audience need to know?
- What questions will my audience have?
- What's the best outcome for my agency? What do I need to say to get this outcome?
- What's the best outcome for our audience? What do I need to say to get this outcome?
- Garner, Bryan A., Legal Writing in Plain English, 2001, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 93-96.
- Securities and Exchange Commission, Plain English Handbook, 1998, Washington, DC, p. 9.