It’s All About Audience

audienceA reader recently emailed me asking for writing advice. I complied.

“You don’t need a literary background to write. You do need something to say and a desire to learn how to control language so that you can say it as you mean it, to reach the audience you intend to inform, persuade, and/or entertain. In the end, writing is about the audience, not about the self.”

Here are some tips for writing to your audience:

Tell your readers something they want to know. People love to learn, so teach them. For non-fiction, this means submitting stories to publications geared toward your content. There are many ways to slice a story: Traveling with young children could be slanted toward a parenting magazine, toward a tourism site, or even toward a publication about cars. Each publication has a different audience, and should be written to the probable readers.

Use the language appropriate to your subject matter. If you’re writing for an audience already familiar with the technical aspects of the subject, use the technical language. But if you’re writing for a general audience, be sure to teach your audience any of the words or concepts required to gain a clear understanding of a technical subject.

Use the language appropriate to your audience’s reading level. A book for a beginning reader has a different vocabulary and uses simpler sentence structure than a philosophical treatise on the nature of existence for an academic symposium. (One of my favorite assignments was translating highly technical medical procedures about pediatric cardiomyopathy (children’s heart disease) in a way that worried parents of sick children could understand.)

Be considerate: Write clearly. Inform and entertain. And when you’re finished, stop.

dll2013Deborah Lee Luskin writes for listeners of Vermont Public Radio, readers of this writing blog, readers of personal essays in a variety of publications, and readers of literary fiction. She also writes prolifically in her journal – for herself, and not for publication.



24 thoughts on “It’s All About Audience

  1. Long ago, someone taught me the Flesch-Kincaid grading model. For fiction, I usually try for no more than an 8th Grade Level or less. I’ve also used the Hemingway App as a sanity check.


  2. Useful advice! I’m a spanish student of Journalism and I love writing. I had just started a new blog in which I want to tell stories with photos and words. I think that in a crazy world like this, it’s such a magical moment when you read something that makes you fly, travel, laugh or dream. Thank you.

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  4. I like the first one. I love reading and discovering something new, factoids dotted about here and there are fascinating and help to make a story readable. Fight Club springs to mind, as there are lots of ‘chemical passages’ describing bomb making or whatever that are clearly based on real science.

    • I’m not familiar with Fight Club, but I do know that I love a novel that educates me about something else. The best example I can think of is Dick Francis: I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in horses or horse racing – except when I’m reading one of his mysteries!

  5. Reblogged this on Adventures in Education and commented:
    To all my language arts friends out there, this is candid advice from an experienced author. I have taken articles like this before a writing assignment and read them to class, followed by a discussion. I would also refer back to this article when doing writing conferences, where students answer for themselves how they think they achieved the three pieces of advice in their writing.

  6. Pingback: It’s All About Audience | Musings with Meaning

  7. Pingback: Marketing Your Book | Live to Write - Write to Live

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