Identify your message

Think about what you want your document to say. Ask yourself:

  • What is most important to convey?
  • What do I want my audience to remember?

Getting the overall message clear is an important step in focusing your work. It provides a valuable lens that you can use to assess the document. Read each section and ask yourself:

  • Is it conveying the message I want?
  • Is it contributing to my audience’s understanding?

You can think about the message of the document as a whole, and the message of each section or chapter.

Be clear about what you want to say versus what your audience wants to know. What we want to say is a push – you are pushing the information onto the reader. What they want to know is a pull – they pull it in. These are not always the same thing.

Thinking about the pull of the audience, as well as the information you want to push, can make your document more useful to readers. Think about what the audience is interested in, what they are driven by, and what questions they really want answered.

For example, if you want to present information on healthcare regulation, an audience of patients is not asking ‘How does healthcare regulation work in Australia?’; they are really asking ‘How do I know my hospital is safe?’ You may cover similar material in your answer, but focusing on audience pull will enable you to talk to the audience directly and produce a document more relevant to their needs.

Or you might want your audience to know that a project involved many organisations (push). But the audience wants to know more about what the project achieved (pull). That does not mean you have to delete all mention of the collaborators, but it does mean that you might have ‘Achievements’ as your first heading, and ‘Participants’ as a lower priority.

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