Determine your audience and adjust your writing accordingly.
"An audience is never wrong. An individual of it may be an imbecile, but a thousand imbeciles in the dark - that is critical genius." -Billy Wilder
To be an effective writer, you must use language that is audience-centered, not writer-centered. In other words, transcend your own perspective and consider the needs and interests of your readers. Ask yourself: What do my readers know about the topic? Are my readers likely to have an emotional response to my work?What do I want my readers to do, think, or feel?
If you don't define words and concepts that your readers need to understand your document, then your writing will be unsuccessful. Transforming a writer-centered draft into an audience-centered draft can be one of the most important challenges you face as a writer. All of us, no matter how educated, can have difficulties getting inside someone else's shoes. Audience awareness is one of the major keys to effective writing.
Audiences are characterized by the questions they ask when they read. As a writer, you want to consider your readers' reasons for viewing your text.
Instructors: When instructors are your primary audience, they may ask:
Technicians/Users: When you are writing as the expert, explaining how to do something, your users are likely to ask:
Decision Makers: When someone is in a position of making decisions, he or she may be harassed by demands on his or her time. As a result, he or she may grow impatient if you don't immediately present your request. Decisions makers may only read your abstract or introduction. Additional questions the reader may ask include:
Internet Skimmers: Researchers have found that people approach documents published on the Internet with a different set of expectations than they would a traditional text. Although online readers can be motivated to read carefully, they tend to be more likely to skim online documents than printed documents. These readers may ask:
Interestingly, writers and writing teachers do not always agree about exactly when you should consider your audience. It's possible, for example, that thinking about an audience early in the writing process can be intimidating. When addressing a difficult subject, some writers may be so concerned with developing the material for themselves that they don't want to pause or complicate matters by questioning what others would think about the subject. They may even write a few drafts before questioning how their words and ideas will affect readers.
Nonetheless, you are wise to consider your audience as early as possible in the writing process. Asking yourself the following questions can help you solidify your sense of audience.
You will face situations when you are unsure about what your audience knows about a topic or how the audience may feel about the topic. You will not always be able to make informed guesses about your audience's level of education, knowledge about the topic, or interest in the topic. As a result, you may need to rely on an internalized, imaginary audience. In other words, you may need to make educated guesses about the needs, education, and likely reactions of the people who are likely to read your work.