Audience Analysis Lesson & Assignment Descriptions
Our lesson on audience will show you how the concept of audience differs between technical writing class and other English classes. This document contains:
● Who is your reader? A reading lesson for audience analysis
● Assignment Descriptions for
○ Audience Analysis-Websites or Magazine
○ Analysis of Introductions
Who is your reader?
When you’ve written essays or other assignments in the past–in academic settings–who was your reader?
Probably you’d say the teacher or the professor, acting in that professional capacity, ideally able to set aside personal biases and evaluate your assignment objectively. (I know; we’ve all had teachers who didn’t.)
What choices did you consider for those assignments?
Probably your responses would include choices about what you wanted to say, how you wanted to say it, how you would organize it, and what grammar revisions you would make.
What was the purpose of this assignment?
Most likely you saw the purpose was to test or to prove that you had either the knowledge or the skills that the assignment required.
What brought about the need for this assignment?
The immediate need is for your instructor to assess your learning and to give you a grade for the assignment, eventually averaged into your overall course grade. The ultimate need for you would be your education, including learning the knowledge and skills of history, government, English, and other classes.
Did your teacher read that assignment? Why?
Most likely, yes. If the teacher is doing his or her job, the assignment is read, evaluated, graded, returned. As to why, reading the assignment is that person’s job. The teacher is basically a required audience for this assignment.
So what’s different about audiences
for non-academic writing?
Here is where we have a distinct shift between academic writing (such as writing assignments in history, government, English, and other classes) and non-academic writing (any writing that occurs outside of education).
First, in the non-academic world, we must figure out who specifically will be reading the documents we write. It is no longer a teacher or professor–that generic grader without biases who must read what we write and act on it–grade it, give feedback, etc. It is now a real person, as complex as we ourselves are. Many times it is one specific person–a boss, a colleague, a subordinate. We must look at that specific person or group of persons and determine how we can best convey our message to them and persuade them that our message is important enough to read.
Next, the reader is no longer “trapped” like the academic audience. The people to whom you write at work do not have to read what you’ve written, and chances are they won’t. They don’t have to. They are overloaded with information anyway, and they get to choose what letter, memo, or email they actually will read. True, they’ll miss out on information they need, but they can always call and ask you to fill them in. Because co-workers (and anyone else in our non-academic audience parameters) aren’t required to read what we write, we must make our information relevant to the reader early in the communication.
In an email, that means the subject line must contain specific key words identifying the topic. For example, I’ve received hundreds of emails with a subject line like “question” or “assignment.” Because those are vague subject lines, they may not be answered as quickly as one with a subject line of “question about audience assign. 2A.” Because it is more specific, it seems more urgent.
In a memo or letter, usually the first paragraph presents the main idea. If the main idea doesn’t appear until the second or third paragraph, the reader has probably tossed the communication, wondering why he or she received it in the first place. Therefore, in your letters and memos, your first paragraph must persuade a reluctant reader to continue reading; people only continue reading memos, letters, etc., when they see how it affects them. If they don’t see that connection, they disengage and move on.
One possible exception to this rule is for bad news communications. In that case, it’s usually better to allude to the main idea, and then state it directly with explanation in the second and following paragraphs. For example, in a letter denying a refund to a customer, a store owner’s first paragraph may state that he or she is concerned about having satisfied customers and wants to find a resolution to the issue of refunding money for the item. In the second paragraph, the customer will be told directly that the refund is denied. The letter will continue with justification of that choice. In brief, the writer of a bad news letter may need to hold the main idea until the second paragraph to avoid being perceived as harsh and uncaring, but only after mentioning the issue in the first paragraph.
With the writing assignments we’ll do in this course this semester, we’ll be able to actually put a name in the blank labeled “reader” or “audience.” Therefore, we’ll have to consider all of the relevant aspects of that person while we write to them. The questionnaire below will help with that task.
Audience Analysis Questionnaire
Consider your answers to these questions before you begin any written communication.
● What has caused the need for me to write this document?
● Who has initiated this document?
● What response do I want from my readers?
● What is my purpose in writing?
o to inform?
o to persuade?
o to instruct?
o to contact?
o to establish accountability?
● Who is the primary reader? Be specific.
● Who are secondary readers? Be specific.
● What is their knowledge level on your subject? (terms, concepts) Don’t guess; find out.
● What is their educational level/technical level on your subject? Are they experts or novices?
● What are the reader’s (readers’) needs? Anticipate them.
● How will this communication directly affect the reader? Will it change how they complete a task, will it cost or save them money, etc.
● What questions will the reader have while/after reading this document? Anticipate them and answer them.
● Do they have any prejudices or biases toward me, the group/company I represent, my ideas? Research if necessary.
What is their role?
● Why should the reader read your document? They don’t have to read it, so make it appealing and interesting.
● How will the reader react to your message? Anticipate those reactions and respond to them.
● What do you want the reader to do after reading this communication? be persuaded, bring action, make changes, instruct, maintain lines of communication, retain goodwill?
● How will the reader read your communication: scan it, search it, read for detail?
● What is the physical environment in which your document will be read and do you need to make any alterations to the document? For example, if it is to be read in a location where it would be soiled, the document may need to be laminated.
What is your relationship with the reader?
● What style/tone will best suit your communication? formal, informal, conversational, serious, enthusiastic, apologetic?
● What is the organizational climate? competitive, cooperative, creative, unwilling to change?
● What is the relationship between you and the reader?
o Is the reader above, below, or equal to your level?
o Is the reader near you? You may use an informal tone.
o Is the reader distant from you? You may use a more formal tone.
o Do you want to create closeness or distance? Adopt either informal or formal language to suit your needs.
● What persona do you want to create? authoritarian, helpful, etc.
● What prior experience does the reader have with you or your company? Keep this in mind.
What is the audience’s attitude toward you, your organization, and your message?
● Will the attitude be positive or negative about your message? Do you have good, bad, or neutral information? Anticipate the reaction and respond to it.
Assignment: Audience Analysis-Websites or Magazines
DO NOT PURCHASE MAGAZINES FOR THIS ASSIGNMENT.
Choose two magazines or internet websites, one that you enjoy (one for which you’re part of the audience) and one that you’d never pick up on your own (one for which you’re definitely not part of the audience). Do not select one magazine and one website.
Analyze each magazine or website to determine what it uses to reach its target audience. Look at the pictures, advertisements, articles, language used, art work, colors, or any other facet that makes it unique for its audience. Explain how these elements target its audience.
Here are some options if you’d like electronic access to magazines for this assignment and for your personal use:
1. Download the app RBdigital
2. Log in with your local library username and password.
a. Don’t have a library card to your local public branch? This is a good time to get one.
3. Browse the magazines.
1. Access Flipster through your TCC email address.
2. Select Sign in with Google.
3. Select your @my.tccd.edu account.
5. Select Yes or No.
6. Browse the magazines.
Write a short report in which you explain how each one reaches its target audience.
This assignment should use a compare/contrast organizing strategy, so consider creating a table as part of your prewriting.
See the student sample below for content.
Here are assignment specifications:
● Include your name on this assignment.
● Double space, use 12 point font size, a plain font (such as Times, Arial, or Calibri), and 1-inch margins.
● Save this file as LastName FirstInitial Audience Analysis
o For example, mine would be Chilton A Audience Analysis
● You may use any format for this document; an acceptable format could be as simple as 2 paragraphs, 1 on each magazine/website.
● List specific evidence that supports your claims and include analysis that explains that proof.
● You can include quotations, numbers of articles on specific subjects, your opinions on the content and appearance, or other forms of evidence.
● Be sure to state the name of each magazine or website and, in your opinion, its target audience. ALWAYS INCLUDE WHETHER YOU ARE OR ARE NOT A MEMBER OF THE PUBLICATION’S AUDIENCE.
● Include at least 75 words on each magazine or website.
● It is a daily grade, graded subjectively.
Turning in this assignment
● You may submit this assignment by uploading/attaching a file.
Student Sample: Audience Analysis
Out of the many magazines available on the market, very few perk the interest of everyone. When a person goes to a store, typically they already have a magazine picked out in their mind that they wish to purchase, or they are looking for something interesting. Personally, I lean toward crochet magazines based on their content. For me the specific magazine itself does not matter, but rather what I find inside that satisfies my wants. In turn there are plenty I walk by without a second glance, such as political magazines. These two magazine types are separated by purpose and design, therefore for this assignment “Crochet” and “Foreign Policy” were selected.
Crochet at first glance is simple but flashy. This edition has a simple woodsy background with a plain woman standing alone, covered by an obviously crocheted sweater. The woman’s hair is dark, just slightly darker than the night woods behind it, and the clothes under her sweater are brown; the sweater itself is an autumn orange. This magazine does not have any striking features beyond the sweater. The text font is plain, and only in two colors, no capital letters are even used to jump out at someone. The only person who would be looking at this magazine would be one who was accustomed to what actually was highlighted on the cover, the sweater. According to “An Itch to Stitch”1, the Craft Yarn Council of America2 does not have statistics to show how many men actually practice crochet. Granted internet blogs show an increasing interest; this obviously shows the magazine is geared more toward the female audience. This is a hobby magazine as much as a practical use magazine. The pages are filled with a few personal stories of fellow crocheters, and the rest are instructions. Nearly cover to cover shows you how to make a multitude of items from baby clothes to shawls. Only a person actually intending on working on a project from the magazine itself would probably pick one up. Advertisements within are for more magazines and books filled with the same information and materials for accomplishing your goal. The magazine “Crochet” aims for the more mature female, although teen crochet is on the rise.
On the other hand the magazine “Foreign Policy” seems to attract a wholly different group of individuals. The physical design of the magazine itself is quite different from “Crochet”. Both magazines have about 100 pages in them a piece, but whereas “Crochet” is a side stapled magazine with a flimsy cover, “Foreign Policy” has a thick glue binding such as a book would have. The cover is still paper, but it is a thicker paper providing it a more professional look. The colors on the cover are simple and dark outlined by a white only border. It looks like the type of reader that one would find in a lawyer’s office waiting room. This magazine even carries a subtitle to provide further insight to what types of topics it pertains to, “Global Politics, Economics, and Ideas”. The ideas portion leads one to believe it is a magazine that discusses and reviews current situations and provides think tank type analysis. A person looking for something to read would have to be interested in political viewpoints and the overall state of world events. The cover once again has a simple lone person on it, not providing any sort of “eye candy” to a generic audience. It appears to have a front cover story focusing on immigration in the United States and the problems associated with open borders. The advertisements cover areas from graduate colleges and programs, to marketing companies and also finance firms. The only pamphlets in it reference “Foreign Policy” itself, no further ads for other magazines by the same publisher or other materials filled with the same type of information. It is filled from cover to cover with articles. There are pictures in this magazine, but short sweet and to the point the rest is text. Where one article ends on a page another begins, and these are not short articles they are small reports over viewing the current state of one affair or another. It would lead one to believe this type of publication is geared toward a business professional or politically minded individual. The thought of business suits and briefcases comes to mind, with financial goals and political outcomes in mind. It looks as if one could place this type of magazine on a shelf as a collection with a feeling of prestige.
Assignment: Analysis of Introductions
Compare the way you wrote your introduction to me and the introduction you wrote to peers on the discussion board. What changes did you make between the two audiences? Why did you do that? Were you aware of it when you were writing or was it automatic? Cite specific examples from your posts, describe the audience, and explain why you wrote the way you did for this specific audience. Include key ideas from this Audience lesson to support your discussion. This assignment should be 50-75 words. It is a daily graded, graded subjectively.
Turning in this assignment
● Turn in this assignment in the textbox area. Proofread your response carefully.
● It is a daily grade, graded subjectively.