I hope you are having a good year and are looking forward to the Spring. As many of you know, I write for a wide range of people—clinicians, scientists, healthcare professionals as well as middle and high school students and the general public. As I write, I tailor my writing for each audience. I am careful to include clear explanations relevant to each audience. I use examples based on each audience’s level of knowledge.
This is important because scientists and the lay public have different understandings of what words mean. For example, scientists use the term “enhance” to be a synonym for “increase” while the general public interprets this to mean “improve”— which gives the word a different meaning and context. Another commonly misunderstood word is “error.” Scientists use this term to mean “a number that is different from what was expected,” while the general public interprets this as a “mistake.” Other examples of differences in word choice can be seen in the table below, which was developed by Susan Hassol and shared by Mario Aguilera, Director of Strategic Communications, University of California San Diego at Experimental Biology ’16:
To make sure your audience will understand what you have written, it is important to ask a reader from your intended audience to review your writing. Listen to the reader’s comments and revise your article appropriately. This will ensure your article is appropriate for your intended audience and increase your credibility as a writer for this audience.
Tip: Write for your audience.
Very good points about assessing the knowledge level of the audiences, presentation formats, and terms.
As a technical writer, my first step is to identify why audiences want to read or scan the material. For example, do they want to learn how to perform some task, understand a concept at an overview or detailed level, troubleshoot a problem? The second step is to identify the specific topics the audiences need to meet their goals. For example, do they want to learn how to implement a product or how to create and edit notes for a clinical record or do they want to understand in general how to manage at risk populations, such as those with COPD or diabetes? And so on. I really look forward to your book on guidelines for writing manuscripts and clinical publications. Best, Trish