Who do you want to reach and why?


by Andrew T. LePeau

How do we keep our audience in mind and not keep our audience in mind? We do it at different times. When we are first picking a topic, researching, drafting, and smashing down ideas on the page, we need not give one thought to the audience. We just do our best to get into a flow.

But later, after we’ve got the semblance of a draft together and go back to rework, refine, and edit our own material, then we keep our audience in mind. Zinsser himself hints at this. When talking about whether to put in humor, he writes, “If it amuses you in the act of writing, put it in. (It can always be taken out, but only you can put it in.)” That’s the key—we can always take it out later. We just shouldn’t take it out early in the process.

When we revise, we need a guide, a grid, a set of criteria for what to leave in and what to take out. Sometimes too much of a good thing can make a piece fail. We may think all the illustrations are spot-on, but too many of them (or the wrong ones or even too many good ones) can put readers off.

How do we determine what may work for our audience and what may not? We will have a hard time figuring that out with a big amorphous readership in mind, thus, the earlier suggestion to make it specific. Having one person in mind is a great way to do that—someone who is not on the fringes of the kind of people you want to reach but someone at the center.

Who should that person be? How do we choose? Another way to phrase the question “Who is your audience?” is this: Who do you want to reach and why? That is, What is motivating you to write? What have you learned that you want others to know? Who could benefit from it? A friend? A coworker? Someone you worship with? A customer? A family member?

Write for that person, and let it be your gift to them.

Taken from Write Better by Andrew T. LePeau. Copyright (c) 2019 by Andrew T. LePeau. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.