While revising my business-writing course materials, I’ve been reviewing some perennial topics. This is one that comes up in every discussion of writing: Know Your Audience.

The first thing I want to know when someone asks me to write an article, Web site, script, brochure or any kind of copy is, “Who is going to read this?” It’s impossible to do a good job unless you are familiar with the intended audience.

People are more likely to read something that appeals to them and is relevant to their lives. One of my clients says her company’s best-read publication is the simple little newsletter that covers the employee-benefits beat. It shouldn’t be a big surprise that people are interested in matters that directly affect their pay stub!

As people read, they ask, “What’s in it for me?” So, you have to think about the information they want, and how they would like that information packaged. If you can answer these questions before you put pen to paper (or fingers to keys), your work probably won’t get pitched into the trash unread:


  • What’s the general education level of the readers? Stick to shorter sentences if your audience is not made up of university grads.
  • Are the readers usually pressed for time? Use subheads liberally, so those who are just scanning can at least get the gist of the material.
  • Are they reading for pleasure? When writing a magazine article, for example, you can use more descriptive prose and adopt a slower pace.

Of course, there’s more to tailoring your message to your audience. I’ll save it for a future blog entry.

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