Understanding one's audience is one of the most important elements of effective communication. Audience analysis can help you gain valuable insight about your readers, which can help you to choose and develop a relevant, meaningful topic. It can also help you to create a writing plan that is tailored effectively to your reading audience, with appropriate tone, style, language and content.
There are three main areas to consider when analyzing your audience: demographics, dispositions and knowledge of the topic. For each of these areas, there are a set of questions to answer which will help stimulate your thinking about your audience. In addition to the questions below, you should consider how each of these factors (age, socio-economic status, etc.) affect your readers' attitudes, expectations and opinions about you and your topic.
- Is my reading audience homogeneous or heterogeneous? If homogeneous, how are the readers alike? What do they have in common? If heterogeneous, how are the readers different from one another? What do readers have in common despite their differences?
- What is the average age of my readers? What range of ages is represented?
- In terms of socio-economic status, how would I describe my reading audience? Where do they fit in society's social and economic status?
- What occupations are represented in my reading audience?
- What are my readers' political and religious affiliations?
- What ethic, racial and cultural groups are represented in my reading audience?
- What is my role in relationship to my reading audience? Are we status equals or re we of mixed status?
- What might my reading audience expect from this document?
- What might I expect about my readers' attitudes toward me (the writer) and my topic?
- What concerns or problems do my readers have?
- What interests and goals do my readers have?
- What will motivate my readers? What types of needs do they have?
- What biases or preconceived ideas might my readers have about me and my topic?
- How much does my reading audience already know about my topic? What, specifically, do my readers already know about the topic?
- What can I inform my readers about that they do not already know? What new information would my readers benefit from? How could they use this new information?
- At what point of sophistication will I be "talking over the heads" of my readers because my information is too complex? At what point of sophistication will I be "insulting the intelligence" of my readers because my information is too simplistic?
- What questions might my readers have about my topic?