My technical editing students are working on a developmental edit on some assembly instructions from Ikea. To help them make good recommendations, we’ve been discussing how to help content creators address the readers’ readiness for that content. Readiness is a concept borrowed from leadership research (the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership theory) to describe how able and willing an individual is to follow a leader. It’s not much of a leap to think about a writer as analogous to a leader. Both attempt to influence what others think or do./>
As the graphic shows, followers/readers have high readiness (R4) when they are both able and willing to think or do as the leader/writer wants. In contrast, they have lower readiness (R3) when they are able but unwilling. And so on. Diagnosing the ability and willingness of readers to think or do as a content creator wants is an essential task for editors.
To address audience ability, editors focus on recommendations for developing informative prose (or graphics). To address willingness, they focus on developing persuasive content. The videos below help editors think about these issues based on what my co-authors and I wrote in Chapters 3 and 4 of Revising Professional Writing, 4th edition.
For more detailed discussions of developing informative content, check out Insure Readers Understand Your Message with the Right Content.
For more on persuasive content, go to Persuade Readers with an Appeal to Logos.
I’m hoping to share some of my students efforts at developmental editing in a few weeks so stay tuned . . .
There are lots of posts here at Pros Write that deal with developing informative and persuasive content for the workplace. If you want to see some of the research behind my guidelines, check out the following sources:
Cialdini, R.B. (2001). Harnessing the science of persuasion. Harvard Business Review, 79(9), pp. 72-79.
Garrison, L. et al. (2012). Designing evidence-based disclosures: A case study of financial privacy notices. The Journal of Consumer Affairs, Summer, pp. 204–234.
Gilsdorf, J.W. (1986). Executives’ and academics’ perceptions on the need for instruction in written persuasion. Journal of Business Communication, 23(4), pp. 55-68.
Halmari, H. & Virtanen, T. (Eds.) (2005). Persuasion Across Genres: A linguistic approach (Pragmatics & Beyond, New Series). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Hersey, P. & Blanchard, K.H. (1988). Management of Organization Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Holmes-Rovner, M.et al. (2005). Evidence-based patient choice: A prostate cancer decision aid in plain language. BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making, 5(1), pp. 16.
Schiess, W. (2008). The Texas pattern jury charges plain-language project: The writing consultant’s view. Clarity, 60, pp. 23-27.
Sproat, E., et al. (2012). Aristotle’s Rhetorical Situation. Purdue OWL. The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University.