Step 1: Understand the needs of your audience

One of the most common mistakes writers make is to create documents and reference materials in a "one size fits all" fashion without considering the needs of different audiences. This leads to problems for readers, because one size rarely, if ever, fits all.

onesizedoesnotfitall

Help all your readers find what they need

Say you are developing procedures for emergency evacuation. The document you create may be read by security personnel, executive management, and also by an audit team. Each group will require a different level of information. In the same manner, a new hire filling out an expense report for the first time needs a different level of detail than an experienced salesperson who just wants to check the meal allowance before completing a weekly report.

When information for different audiences is mixed together without considering audience needs, it creates confusion, inefficiencies, frustration, and mistakes. Organizing the information so each audience can quickly find what they're looking for—and skip what they don't need—will greatly increase the effectiveness of your documents.

TIP!

To ensure that each of your audiences can quickly find the information they need, before you begin writing, ask yourself these questions:

Before you begin writing, ask these questions:

  • Who are my audiences? 
  • Who needs to do what? 
  • What do they need to know in order to do it? 

As you review existing documents, ask these questions:

  • Is the right level of detail provided for different audiences? 
  • Can each audience easily find and access the information they need where and when they need it? 
  • Do they find the document easy to understand and use?