Teach Write: Who Are You Writing For?

June 25, 2019

Welcome to Teach Write! This column draws on my 20 years’ experience teaching writing to kids, university students, and adult learners. It includes ideas and exercises that teachers can use in the classroom, and creative writers can use to level up their process.

Last time we talked about the 40:20:40 rule of writing, and how the first 40% of the effort that goes into any piece happens in the preparation phase. The very first piece of preparation is to identify your audience: in other words, who are you writing for?

Professional writers think about audience all the time (it’s how we sell stuff), but new writers, and especially students, have a tendency to skip this crucial step. In my experience, students in particular tend to be so concerned about their ability to do the writing (read: complete their assignment), that they completely forget that someone is going to read what they wrote.

Audience is a critical issue, though, because (with the exception of personal journaling, which is for our eyes only), writing is an act of communication, and communication involves an exchange between at least two parties. As writers, we tend to fixate on the transmitting part of the exchange to the exclusion of the receiving part of the exchange.

And that’s a problem, because the receiver, the reader, brings a great deal of themselves to the process. The more we think about our readers, the more we increase the chance that our efforts to communicate will be successful. So instead of framing the question, “Who are you writing for?”, try thinking about it more as, “Who are you speaking with?”

We’ll get more into specific types of audiences in future columns. For now, I’d like to know what you think! Communicate with me in the comments. πŸ™‚

Hey, did you know I teach writing workshops? It’s true – I work with adult writers, teachers, and students of all ages. Contact me to learn more.


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