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When writing for a foreign audience, I find it best to keep a neutral voice
for the documentation. I still need to know the general education of the
audience so that I can write at an appropriate level.
In a mining FSR that I edited for an international audience, I knew that the
audience was very educated and didn't require extensive explanations,
although I did need to adhere to industry standards that the audience
expected. I never met my audience. For a user manual that I wrote for the
Hong Kong Police, I did need to appropriately explain how to use technology
that was unfamiliar to the audience and I needed to use language that was
free of colloquialism and jargon. I never met that audience, either, but I
I frequently do not meet the audience of my documents, however, I am able to
paint a picture about that audience based on my assessment of the audience's
language and technology skills, abilities, and preferences. Having written
for many types of audiences, I feel comfortable in my ability to derive
knowledge about my audience based on abstract facts that surround the
audience. I don't need to meet them personally to know how they fit between
documentation and technology. I don't make guesses or assumptions about my
audience, I analyze the nature of the audience according to available facts.
This does become knowledge of my audience.
SMEs provide information about how the technology is intended to be used and
how users should interact with the technology. There is usually a liaison
of some sort (Business Analyst, Sales Person, Customer Support
Representative, whomever) who understands the user or at least has some
information about the user. My role is to bridge the gap between technology
as the SME conveys it and the technology user as the liaison conveys that
person. By learning what the audience needs to know from the SMEs and what
the audience does know and expects, from the liaisons, I can learn about my
audience and "know" them.
> From: McLauchlan, Kevin
> What I do
> is not "knowing my customer". It's more of an educated "imagining my
> customer". I think that's as close as many of us can
> realistically get.
> Oh the ignominy of it all.
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