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Your Audience Rules — or Should
I’m not much of a sports fan. When I watch a football game, the most I usually get out of it is the score. A true football fan, on the other hand, can watch the same game and understand the strategy, the play-by-play and the statistics. He or she can recount plays and explain how they fit into the overall game. He has a deep understanding of what is going on without explanation.
When you write, readers vary as well. Some will have in-depth knowledge of your subject matter while others may know very little about the topic. Your job as a writer is to communicate clearly with all of your readers without dumbing down the information or overwhelming your readers with too many details. Here’s how:
- Understand your audience. Before you begin to write, understand who your audience is, their depth of understanding of the subject matter you are writing about, their interest and their purpose in reading what you have written. If your audience is familiar with your topic, you can count on shared knowledge to “fill in the blanks.” If the topic is unfamiliar to your readers, you need to provide more detail. If your audience varies in its understanding, you should provide enough information so every reader can understand the key points you are communicating.
- Make it easy for your readers to get what they need. Why is someone reading what you have written? What level of detail do they need? If your readers need quick facts, for example, use a bullet format. Make use of subheads and bold and italic type to make key points stand out. If you need to provide more detail for some readers, use a traditional journalistic style, summarizing the important points in the first paragraph with supporting details in later paragraphs.
- Write clearly and succinctly. Writing is a thought process. To write clearly and succinctly, you must have a firm grasp of the key points you want to make before you start writing. After you draft an article, edit it carefully for content, grammar and style. When it comes to writing, less is more. If one word conveys what you want to say, don’t use two. Eliminate jargon.
Bottom line — write for your audience for optimum communication.