Audience Adaptation. Whenever you write or speak, you need to adapt your message and communication style to communicate successfully with your particular audience (see Relationships and Rapport). When you are writing to friends and business acquaintances of long standing, you canand shouldbe less formal than when you are writing to someone you do not know.
Your friends may forgive you if your messages are not as considerate as they might be or if they contain errors in spelling, grammar, or mechanics. Those who dont know you, however, will form their entire impression of you based on the message they receive. For this reason, it is important that you use what you know about your audience to adapt your message appropriately.
End usersconsumersof products or services, for example, have a different set of interests and concerns from dealers. The end user wants a good value, reliability, and a number of other things based on the kind of product or service. The dealer is interested in mark-up, turn-over, warranty support, and other factors that influence profit, such as customer satisfaction.
Regardless of who your audience is, you will communicate more successfully if you pace him or her by seeing the situation from his or her point of view and by using positive language to express most of your ideas.
Not this: We are happy to have your order.
Not this: I am writing in response to your order.
Say this: The computer you ordered is the best currently available.
Be especially careful to avoid emphasizing what you (as the writer) need, want, desire, demand, or require:
Say this: I would appreciate your answers to these questions by the 15th.
Not this: I must receive your application by the end of the month.
Say this: To ensure your consideration for this position, complete and submit your application by 30 September.
Say this: Because of the recent UPS strike, we are behind in our deliveries. You will receive your order early next month.
Not this: I regret that you were caused such a terrible inconvenience and hope that the enclosed refund will restore your faith in Gizmo Products.
Say this: Youre right, Mr. Schneider. We inadvertently overcharged you. The enclosed check doesnt show it, but my face is red.
Remember that it is easier to process positive language than it is to process negative phrasings and that both readers and listeners may ignore negative words in sentences:
In general, avoid negative language, and be especially careful to avoid negative language that presupposes or implies that your reader has been less than truthful or is trying to cheat you:
Also be careful to avoid expressing a lack of confidence in your document, product, or service.
Human nature being what it is, we do know that people have fairly common reactions to certain situations: We are all cheered by good news; we are all disappointed by bad news; and we all tend to resist actions that will cost us either time or money. These universals allow us to use a general structure for most messages, based on the concepts of pacing our receivers expectations, leading them in a new direction, blending outcomes to achieve win-win solutions, and motivating them appropriately. These concepts are discussed in Understanding Message Strategy and Structure.