Most of what you write, whether it’s creative, academic or professional, is meant to be read by others. As such, it is important to identify your audience in order to best determine how to present your ideas for optimal understanding and persuasion.
So, how do you go about identifying your audience? Sometimes it’s easy, like when your instructor tells you that your writing will be read by your classmates or when you’re writing something for a group of like-minded individuals. But what if you’re not sure? How do you narrow down your audience? Think about your writing and consider the following:
Who are the people most likely to read your document? Once you determine this, you can begin to gather other information. Data related to demographic traits, such as gender, age, education, and socioeconomic standing can further narrow your audience. Also consider the level of knowledge that your audience has about your topic. Knowing this will determine how detailed you should be or how much support you should give to your ideas. Finally, consider any potential biases that your audience may have and where these biases come from.
When you have the answers to these questions, you can then adjust your content to best identify with your intended audience. This is especially important if your aim is persuasion. You may also want to address these questions --
- What is your connection to your audience? For example, are they your co-workers or your supervisors or perhaps you’re the supervisor. Whatever the case, it is important to keep your status in mind in order to use the appropriate tone.
- Is your audience more likely to agree or disagree with your position? Having this information will help you determine how best to appeal to them and to argue your points.
- What is the audience likely to do with the information provided by you? Are you asking them to follow up with some sort of action or take a position? If so, have you given them sufficient information, so they can follow up responsibly?
In the workplace, writing emails, proposals, reports, and other business documents is commonplace. It’s safe to assume that your audience for these types of writing are your co-workers and other industry personnel. As such, your writing should reflect certain professional standards. These standards include writing that is concise, professional in tone, and formatted in business style.
So, remember, there are many types of audience in writing. It is up to you, the writer, to identify your audience and deliver content that meets their needs.