Writing for Your Audience

Always keep your audience in mind when you write something. This is probably a golden rule for all kinds of writing. As technical writers, we also need to take care of our audience. Following are some writing guidelines for you to achieve that.

Understand your audience

In most cases, people who read technical documents are looking for answers to some specific questions. No one reads technical documentation for entertainment. So keep your document clear, straightforward, and task-oriented.

Also, be aware that your readers include both new users and experienced users. Provide sufficient and clear introductory information for new users. As for experienced users, you can improve your index, table of content, and the search function because mostly likely they will use the documents as references when they encounter some issues.

Do not offend your audience

  • No gender bias.
    For example, do not use he/she or his/her. Use they or their instead.
  • Do not prejudge actions.
    Do not write something like:
    This is task easy, simple, or quick.
    Or
    The procedure only takes one minute to finish.
    Such statement will irritate users because this might not be the case when they actually perform the action. Just give instructions on how to do it.
  • Do not blame users.
    Avoid saying: You should…

  • Avoid culture specific issues.
    What works fine in your culture might be equivalent to an insulting or obscene gesture for the people from another country or region.
    For example:
    - Do not user left hand in the graphic when you need to point to something.
    - Do not use red color when you need to highlight something in the graphic.
    - Do not use thumb-up as an icon to imply something is working or good. In some Middle Eastern countries, “thumbs up" translates as the use of the middle finger in the Western countries.

Write for global audience

  • Use universal/international English.
  • Do not use metaphor.
  • Do not try to be humorous.

 

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