Audience Awareness

Subject: Audience Awareness
From: "David Blyth @second" <dsb -at- ALSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 1994 12:27:01 PST

RoMay Sitze says...

>The audience to a large extent determines both style and purpose.

My position is that the audience determines the topic, not the style.
So perhaps what RoMay and I are really discussing is...

o What is a topic?
o What is a "style"?
o Does "content level" determine the topic?

Tom Pearsall said...

>The need to know your audience has been around at least since Aristotle.

Perhaps my point is too trivial. Even Aristotle had to know his topic
BEFORE he knew his audience. Did Aristotle organize his own thinking
in advance? To use strict mathmatical terms:

o A topic is neccessary and sufficient. (I must be able to talk
intelligibly to myself without an audience before I start talking.)

o An audience is neccessary but not sufficient. (I can stand in front
of my audience and never say anything.)

Tension obviously exists between topic and audience. But I feel (among
other things) that lately too much emphasis has been placed on "audience
awareness". It's almost as if it's OK to study an audience then open my
mouth - without having anything to say and without knowing what I am saying.

I'd like to swing the pendulum. If communication fails, then perhaps
it would help if you understood the topic BEFORE you started talking.

If you pointed a gun at my head and said "Pick one: understand your topic
or be aware of your audience". I would try to understand what I am saying.
Thus, I maintain that a topic is more important than an audience.

David (The Man) Blyth
Technical Writer
Alsys (San Diego)
dsb -at- alsys -dot- com
Blodo Poa Maximus

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