For whom do you write?
Way back in 7th grade, my elderly English teacher told us to think about our audience before we started writing. I didn’t really understand that exercise since obviously she was the only one who would read it.Â But she had a point.
It helps when you write to think about one person who will read your piece. Imagine that you are writing for just one person.Â It may help to think about a real person. When I was a reporter, I would think about my grandmother. How would I make the story interesting to her? What details would interest her? I knew that if I could makeÂ my Bridge-loving grandma inÂ WisconsinÂ care about a small biotechnology company in Massachusetts, the story would probably appeal to a local audience with a natural interest.
For some projects, it will make more sense to create a character that more closely resembles your intended audience. Be as specific as possible. Is this person young or old? How much does this person know about the subject? What does this person do for a living? It might help to give this person a name.
Suppose I’m writing a newsletter for a researchÂ group at a university. The newsletter will be sent to potential donors. My reader could be Mrs. Glenda Johnson, a wealthy heiress with a passion for charity. She wants her money to be used effectively to change the world. She wants to know enough about the organization’s projects to explain the work to her friends, but she doesn’t have a strong science background. She doesn’t have a lot of time to read.
I would keep Mrs. Johnson in mind asÂ I write. I would go so far as to imagine a conversation with her. The image will shape the tone of the story, the language and the style. It will guide me as I edit and make me more mindful as a proofread, since I know she will catch even small mistakes.
Overall, this makes the process of writing more personal and more real.