Our last blog dealt with the need to understand your reading audience. Today we address an integral part of that process, i.e., taking steps to know your reader.
Knowing as much as possible about your audience is an essential step in any writing project. It is indispensable to your writing success. Don’t guess or assume the knowledge level of your reader. Using available information, create a profile of your target reader by considering such factors as the reader’s age, level of education, and business experience. Obtain perspective by putting yourself in the reader’s shoes. Ask yourself, why is my writing important to the reader? Then answer the question in your writing.
Obtaining the reader’s profile is not always as easy as it sounds but depends on your purpose in writing. Your reader will be different depending on whether you are preparing a job application, a report, or selling a product or service, etc. If you’re writing to sell a product, for example, obtaining information about the buyer’s income level, spending habits, net worth, and even his political beliefs may become important to you in persuading the reader to buy.
If you’re writing for a single reader, try to tailor your writing to the reader’s interests or beliefs. It was always part of my prewriting routine as an attorney to obtain as much information as was available about the background and rulings of the judge who was assigned to my case. Having this information would assist me in “tailoring” my brief to the idiosyncracies of that judge. On one occasion my opponent’s attorney was urging a legal interpretation that had no case law support. Being aware of the conservative leanings of the judge allowed me to successfully argue in my brief against what I labeled as the unnecessaary and unwarranted judicial activism sought by the other attorney, to expand the law to a level not previously adopted by the courts. Seeing the judge expressly adopt my arguments and some of the cases I had cited in his decision gave me the satisfaction of knowing my writing had been persuasive.
The impact of your writing on the reader(s) must be considered throughout the project. Remember, you are selling yourself. When Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, he knew his writing would be scrutinized not just by other members of the Continental Congress, not just by all of the American colonies, but by France, England, and the entire world. There is no doubt he was aware of all this and wrote accordingly.
With a profile of your reading audience in mind, you are ready to turn to the next step – becoming an expert on your subject matter. This will be the subject of my next blog.
Copyright 2012 Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.