When we talk to people, we automatically adjust our word choice, tone of voice, and length of sentences to match the age, knowledge, and relationship we have with our listeners. In English teacher terms, we are “aware of our audience.”
Sometimes, though, when we write, we forget that a person is on the other end of that communication. This is especially true of online communication, like email, but it’s often true in more traditional forms of writing like business reports and memos. We have a standard format, and we use it no matter to whom or for what we are writing.
Maybe we do this because of the way we’re taught to write in schools, where the teacher is our only reader, and so we write a generic format that we’ve been taught to adopt. Hopefully, as teachers, we are moving away from these audience-less forms of writing and asking our students to engage more formally with audience analysis.
There are some great ways for us to think about writing for particular people or groups. We can look at advertisements and think about how those ads target a specific audience – how does an Old Navy ad differ from one for Folgers, for example? We can look at letters to the editor or email campaigns and see how the writers made choices for their particular constituencies. We can just think about our own communication choices – what would you say to your “BFF” that you wouldn’t say to your grandparents?
If we can be more aware of our audiences, we will be more compassionate, informed, and effective communicators.