One of the questions I’m asked most when teaching my business writing workshops is how to write to multiple audiences in the same document. Writers tell me they struggle with finding the balance between writing too much information for some of the readers and too little for other readers.
In many instances, writers just include all the important information to make sure no reader is left behind.
But this is precisely the wrong approach.
If a reader knows all of the background information about the topic you’re writing about, that person won’t want to wade through a lengthy background section just because a few people may not be familiar with the topic. Readers who know all the previous information might wonder why they have to read a recap. And anytime a reader starts to wonder, it means they’re wandering from your writing.
My advice is to write to the majority of your reading audience, but include writing techniques that bring the new readers along.
Here are a few tips for how to write to multiple reading audiences. You can choose to use one or all, depending on who will be reading the document and what you want to accomplish:
- Consider all the potential readers and their needs for information.
- Explain what the document is intended to accomplish and what is outside its scope.
- Include a mini “table of contents” section either before or after the introduction.
- Include a background section, but place it in the middle or at the end of the document.
- Format the document with clear headings for those who quickly scan and others who search for information.
- Write the document and include an appendix with background material.
- Include a purpose statement for each section of the document.
- Place additions, like definitions or reference numbers, inside parentheses within the text.
- Add live links to resource materials within the text.
- Explain in the introduction how to locate background and resources.
Do you have any tricks for writing to multiple audiences? If so, please share them here.