Who's your secret audience?

Subject: Who's your secret audience?
From: Jim Grey <jwg -at- ACD4 -dot- ACD -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 11 Apr 1994 09:38:38 -0500

Andreas Ramos posits:
>I find that everyone who writes will write
>for a specific audience; often, it is secretely a particular person (a
>friend, a colleague, a S/O). I'll admit that many of my manuals were
>written to friends. Some were written for other men, some were written to
>women. Do you write for men or women? Do you find it more useful to write
>to a man or a woman?

Great question. I say that because I'd never considered it before. Upon
brief reflection, I realize that, largely, *I write for me*. I write things
so *I* can understand them. This company has provided my only technical
writing experience, and our software is extremely complex -- I have used
a surprising amount of my BS in Mathematics to understand the theory behind
our software. Writing about them is part of my struggle to understand them.
The writing process is part of my struggle to understand.

I've always been this way. When I need to figure something out, or need
to understand my feelings, I talk it out, or write about it. It helps me
put it all into place. But now that Andreas's post has me thinking about it,
I wonder if extending this into my work is good for the reader. So far,
my work has received mostly compliments, with customers and, especially,
internal users praising my clarity of explanation. So it seems to work.

As I think about it further, however, I realize that I feel out of touch when
I describe "easy" things, that is, things I understand directly. Last year,
I wrote a manual which generally tells how to use my company's graphical user
interfaces. It goes over the basics: how to mouse, how to click, how to
select, what the parts of a window are, and so on. But I've been mousing
since 1984, when I first laid hands on a Macintosh (and fell in love with
the bloody monsters), so this stuff is a real yawn for me. I've never been
particularly happy with that user interface manual. It seems to be doing
all right; users aren't complaining, at any rate. But I was able to toss it
off so quickly, I don't feel like I really considered the topic or the audience
very much at all.

Hm. I guess you've given me something to think more about, Andreas.

jim grey
jim grey |beebeebumbleandthestingersmottthehoopleraycharlessingers
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