Can I Have Your Opinions and Ideas on Audience?

Subject: Can I Have Your Opinions and Ideas on Audience?
From: Laurel Meier <LMEIER -at- RCHVMW2 -dot- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 1994 07:51:59 CDT


I'm writing a research paper to address a problem with one of the books I
work on. The problem with the book is that the users of the software program
it describes have a wide range of prior knowledge, computer literacy, and job
responsibilities. For past releases, we have tried to "be all things to all
people," but this scatter-gun approach seems to result in a book that satisfies
no one.

Some of the current theories of audience indicate that is both possible and
preferable to write for an "intended audience" or to create a role that
readers can choose to adopt or not adopt when they read the documentation.

I would like to explore the possibility of using this approach with our
documentation, so instead of trying to satisfy the entire audience, we focus
on creating documentation for an intended reader and clearly define in the
documentation who this intended reader is.

I have been able to define the problem and find theory to support this new
approach, but I'm having difficulties finding source information on how to
practically go about defining the intended reader in our books. The only
idea I have so far is to put something in the About This Book section that
states our assumptions about the reader's prerequisite knowledge and

I welcome your ideas, opinions, and experiences that relate to this topic.
Please post your response to the list--it would be especially helpful to
see your dialog on this topic.

Thanks in advance for your help,
Laurel Meier (lmeier -at- rchvmw2 -dot- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com)

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