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Determining the Audience

Your paper should be “reader friendly,” meaning that the reader should not struggle to understand your ideas. You can make your paper reader friendly by analyzing your audience.

One of the first questions you should ask yourself is, “Who are the readers?”

Often the answer to this question is “the audience is my teacher,” so you need to think about the kind of language your teacher uses and the way language is used in the readings that your teacher assigns. Your voice as a writer should be consistent with the type of language used in your class. However, you should also think about who your intended audience is beyond the teacher. To define your audience, it helps to think about these things:

  1. Probable age
  2. Probable sex
  3. Probable education
  4. Probable economic status
  5. Probable social position
  6. Probable values
  7. Probable assumptions

Decide what your readers know or think they know about your subject.

To help you answer this question, ask yourself, “What is the probable source of their knowledge? Is it a direct experience or an observation? Will my readers react positively or negatively toward my subject?”

Next, ask yourself “What will my readers expect from my writing?”

When you are planning your writing, decide what your audience should expect to learn or gain by reading your essay.

You also need to consider how you can interest your readers in your subject.

If your audience is hostile toward your subject, decide how you can convince them to give your writing a fair reading. If your audience is sympathetic, decide how you can fulfill and enhance their expectations. If your audience is neutral, decide how you can catch and hold onto their attention.

Finally, you should decide how you can help your readers read your writing.

The structure of your paper can make your paper easy or difficult to read. Decide what kind of organizational pattern will help your audience see your purpose. Also, decide what guideposts and transitional markers your audience will need in order to follow your organization. Finally, decide what and how many examples your audience will need in order to understand your general statements.

The information on this page was adapted from:
Trimmer, Joseph F.
Writing With a Purpose. 11th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1995.
Updated: January 2005, by Elizabeth Guiden

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