Adapting to Your Audience

Assumptions about Audience

Don Zimmerman, Journalism and Technical Communication Department
The assumption often made in scientific and technical circles is if you're a biology prof and there's another biology prof who's working on a particular area, he may well be using a lot of unique terms the other one may not understand. A real problem in organizations is that the person who develops the product, the communication end of things, assumes a lot more than another person really understands.The question becomes, really, what level of understanding does a target audience have? The content area is a slippery thing for students to sometimes get a handle on. They just assume everybody in their discipline knows the terms.

The question is if you've got a manager up here, is he familiar enough with your technical terms? I see technical terms as different than jargon terms. The technical things, really, are often the points communicating the idea fairly succinctly and to the point with the population that's used to dealing with those. As you move up in the management organization, they may or may not know what's going on.

When we talk about things from the communications standpoint, we use a term called "frame of reference." I've learned there are many different terms like that in other fields. A body of literature called "reference base" is essentially the same thing. It's what the person reading or seeing the message brings to their setting. It's their total life experience framing how they interpret the message.

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