To your audience, you are what you write. I’ll discuss why it’s critical to know and respect your audience before you write a single word.
- Need to work too hard to translate ideas into a story they can understand.
- Need to fill in any missing ideas from their own knowledge base.
- Judge writing to be indirect, abstract, dense, or unclear.
- Interpret the writing in an unexpected way.
- Distrust or become confused about the information shared.
Write well because your audience is at your mercy. Write well because poor writing hurts more than your audience. To your audience, you are what you write. When your writing is ineffective, it hurts both your credibility, and it doesn’t get the job done.
The most reliable way to keep your audience attentive is to write from their point of view and offer them immediate clarity.
Choose Your Characters Wisely
Good writers frame the story they’re telling mostly around characters. Audiences process stories through characters.
For example, Hansel and Gretel, Luke Skywalker, and Katniss Everdeen are characters. However, characters can also be organizations, institutions, other living creatures, tangible objects, concepts, and abstract entities. SmithCo, Paris, the neighbor’s dog, the MacBook Pro, and lease agreements are all examples of characters.
Know and Respect Your Audience
Many sentences include more than one character. If you make sure that all your subjects are characters, you still have to decide which character best serves your communication goal.
Compare the sentences below (subject in blue).
As famine swept the land, a desperate father dropped his children off in the woods.
Hansel and Gretel hoped to escape from the evil witch who held them captive and planned to eat them.
A hungry woman wondered why the oven was taking so long to heat up.
What (or whose) story are you telling? What do you need your audience to understand, and what’s the best way to make sure they understand it?
Try this one on for size:
You are disorganized and unpersuasive.
Your presentation is disorganized and unpersuasive.
When I read your report, I have a hard time understanding it, and I can’t figure out what I am supposed to understand, come to believe, or do.
What story are you telling, and how will your audience respond to that story? Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and ask yourself if the first example may come across as a personal attack, if the second example may sound accusatory, or if third example may seem wishy-washy or indirect.
Give your audience what they need to increase the odds that they understand what you want them to understand, believe what you want them to believe, or do the thing you want them to do.
Try the Persuasive Writing Engine
It all comes back to this:
- Identify the goal you hope to achieve.
- Know your audience.
- Shape your message strategically, logically, and cohesively in order to speak directly to your audience and achieve your goal.
Muddled thoughts make for muddled arguments. Too little knowledge about or respect for your audience makes for unpersuasive arguments. The solution: The Persuasive Writing Engine.