In all my grading rubrics, there’s a specific percentage of assignment points allotted to the audience. Basically, I want to see how well my students have addressed the concerns their audience has. Because writing for an audience is all about making sure you’ve addressed what your audience needs.
Because if you haven’t addressed the concerns of your audience, why are you writing in the first place?When you write, think about what your audience wants. Click To Tweet
Have they answered all the questions the reader will ask about the topic? Have they made it clear to the reader what it is they’re trying to say? Are they addressing the reader in the appropriate manner?
These things are hella important when you’re writing for an audience, regardless of who that audience happens to be. And, in my humble opinion, will save you oodles of trouble in the future.
When I write on this blog, I write casually, to be sure. But that’s the proper tone for this place. When I write for work, it’s definitely more formal. And when I write fiction, I adopt whatever tone is necessary for the story I’m trying to tell.
It’s kind of like how you change the tone of your writing when you email your boss vs. when you text your bestie.
But that’s the thing. We’re always writing for an audience.We're always writing for an audience. Click To Tweet
(Except maybe in journals. But I’m also a megalomaniac, and assume that 100 years from now, historians and scholars will go through my journals — at least the ones I haven’t thrown away — and appraise what I’ve written.)
So, this begs the question. How can you put this into play? How can you ensure your audience is getting what they need from what it is you’re writing?
I’ve got your back, homes.
When you write an email, ask yourself what you want to recipient to take away from it.
Are you scheduling an appointment or meeting, or trying to get Bob from accounting to finally respond to your request for funds? Either way, think about how you can make sure your audience gets that from your emails. Because people tend to be inundated with emails:
- Use bullet points for main ideas, tasks, and action items.
- Keep it simple. Cutesy detail and jokes gets really annoying when you’re on a deadline.
- Highlight when you want to emphasize a point.
When you write a report for work, whether it’s a travel/expense/quarterly report, anticipate questions.
In each section of the report, go paragraph by paragraph and ask yourself what questions you anticipate the reader having about what you’ve said.
- Have you included all the necessary details?
- Are all requirements of the report being met?
- Based on past experience, what sort of questions will the audience have regarding your report?
- If you can’t elaborate on something, is it clear to your reader that you’re working with the only information you have at the time?
When you’re writing directions or a process, think about how your audience will use these directions.
It’s easy to think about a process that you’ve engaged in multiple times, but can you succinctly and concisely explain it to a total noob?
- Follow each step of your directions TO THE LETTER to see if you’re getting from point A to point B the way you’re supposed to. If you need to, edit to add extra information you may have left out initially.
- Ask if the information is vital. Cut anything that isn’t 100% relevant to what you’re writing to avoid confusing your audience.
- Fine an impartial person to test your directions. If they can follow them without any extra information from you, then you’re good to go.
You can pretty much apply any of these strategies to any writing you have to do daily. Take some time to focus on what your audience needs, and that will get you 98% of the way there.
And always, keep in mind that this isn’t Mrs. Palmer’s sixth hour English class. Don’t worry about what Mrs. Palmer would want you to do with your writing. She taught you English writing, which is FUNDAMENTALLY DIFFERENT than the sort of writing you do in the professional/real world. You don’t EVER have to adhere to any rules that she set for you. In fact, I would argue that a lot of English teachers lied to you as you were growing up, and you’re wasting time doing what they said to do.
(They didn’t do this out of spite or for malicious reason. They were just underpaid and trying to wrangle kids to do an assignment when said kids would’ve rather been neckin’ behind the gym. Also, let’s be real. Kids take the DUMBEST things away from lectures, and hold onto them like nuggets of gold, when in fact it’s generally throwaway lines from teachers who just want you to start the assignment at least one day before it’s due.)Your English teachers lied to you. Stop following their writing advice. Click To Tweet
So what about you? What fool-proof writing trick do you use to make sure your audience gets what you’re saying?
This was such a good reminder. I like that you address all kinds of writing that everyone does. I think it will help me with when I’m stuck writing fiction, too, to ask myself, “What will my audience want to know next.”
Yes! That’s an awesome way to use it for fiction! And it keeps you from assuming your reader knows exactly what you’re trying to say because you have to put yourself in the shoes of your reader.