To Whom It May Concern: Why Knowing Your Audience is Key for Effective Writing
By Elke A. Kleisch, Ed.D., Program Chair General Education
In my 12 years as a writing instructor, I recognize the negative feelings people have toward writing. I see the anxiety students have at the thought of putting proverbial pen to paper. Some are even adamant that they’ll never need writing skills for their chosen profession. Yet it’s hard to dispute that we live in a time more dependent on writing than ever before. Ultimately, effective writing depends on how well you analyze and address your audience.
Analyze Your Audience
Someone else dictates most of the writing you do, whether you’re writing a cover letter, client proposal, or academic assignment. Usually there is someone else telling you what, when and how much to write. Often, however, your audience isn’t specified. For your writing to be effective, you’ve got to who’s reading your work.
Your first step is to research as much information as you can about your reader. For example, when applying for a job, take time to thoroughly review the job description and research company information. Learn about the departments within the company, any current initiatives and what their employee culture is like. If you’re a small-business owner in need of an advertisement, you’ll need to understand the residents of your target area and their needs, so you can successfully aim products or services to them.
Knowing this kind of information can be the difference between reaching your readers’ pain points and wasting your valuable time.
Don’t Forget the Details
Details such as the type of information you include, specific words, applicable quotes or examples you use show whether you’ve tapped into the heart of your audience. While you may know the meaning of a word like “entomology,” casual readers of a daily newspaper may need more explanation.
Word choice is also hugely important when trying to speak your reader’s language. Writing a specific, correctly spelled name on a cover letter, for instance, rather than using a generic salutation, sets you apart from other job applicants. Focusing on details reflects favorably on you as a communicator.
To whom does effective writing concern? Job seekers, parents with children learning to write, home bloggers and the gamut of professionals in our technologically dependent society. Writing concerns all of us. Not only must your writing make a great first impression, but it’s also your link to your personal and professional communities. Knowing your audience is integral in making that positive impact and connection.
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Image credit: Flickr/LucasTheExperience
Elke A. Kleisch, Ed.D., is program chair of general education. In this role, Dr. Kleisch manages the general education faculty team. As an adjunct for CTU, she teaches English composition courses, preparing students to be effective writers in their academic and professional careers. She began her career as an educator by receiving her Master of Arts in Developmental Studies with a focus on Reading and Writing. She continued her studies and received her doctorate in Reading and Language. She has taught GED, ESOL, and reading and writing to students ranging from undergraduate to graduate level. Connect with Dr. Kleisch on LinkedIn.