April A to Z Day 1: Audience


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When I sit down to begin a piece of writing, I ask myself two questions:

  1. To whom am I speaking? (Who is my audience?)
  2. What am I trying to accomplish? (What is my purpose?)

These questions are equally important. Sometimes I begin with one; sometimes with the other. I don’t consider step one of my writing process complete until I know the answer to both. Now let’s focus on the question of audience for a moment.

You need to know your audience because every piece of writing is an appeal. When you publish, you invite people to interact with you, even if indirectly. Every rhetorical decision should be taken with this in mind.

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You don’t speak to academics the same way you talk to hobbyists. You don’t speak to adolescents the same way you talk to 50-year-olds. Not if you want to be successful.

Audience is especially important to blogs. I write this one, edit a secondcontribute to a third.

I don’t view my audience as a single group. It’s segmented. Some people read everything we write, but most don’t. Some follow us for the comics; some for the writing-related things I post here; some for our work on equality, etc.

I rarely even try to speak to my entire audience at once. Every detail of every post, from basic structure right down to things like word choice and standards of evidence, is informed by the segment of the audience I am communicating with.

I have a rule of thumb. No idea whether I made it up or co-opted it and forgot the source:

If you try and speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.

image: National Archives UK, via Wikimedia Commons.

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About Gene'O

Compulsive writer, amateur photographer, and blogaholic. Also an evil genius.

38 thoughts on “April A to Z Day 1: Audience

  1. Great post! It is very interesting how people can tailor a piece of writing, blog post, article, etc. to a particular group (or groups) of people!

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  2. Harliqueen says:

    A good first post for the challenge 🙂

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  3. I really like your last line here…it’s easy to forget, but so very true. I agree that this is a great reminder here at the “starting line” of our A to Z Challenge!

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    • Gene'O says:

      Yeah. I feel like I must have stolen that line from someone. I started with audience because I wanted to begin with step 1 of my process. Not necessarily going to blog through my whole writing process, but it seemed a good place to begin.

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  4. yaykisspurr says:

    I’m not sure I totally agree with your perspective but I agree if you’re all about getting published the best way to go about it is to tailor your work to a specific group. Cheers 🙂

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    • Gene'O says:

      Thanks very much for stopping by and taking the time to read. I’d certainly be up for hearing a friendly critique or your own perspective on audience. I believe every writer has to find his or her own way, and when I see someone going about it much differently than me, it interests me greatly.

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  5. Awesome start to the April Challenge! What a great post. I particularly love that last line.

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  6. Diana says:

    Yes, yes. Audience is one of the most pivotal parts of writing successfully, I think.

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  7. Great post! Nice opening for the challenge!

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  8. I think this actually an area of my writing where I am probably weak. I’ve done a lot of my fiction writing more in a vacuum, not necessarily sharing it with others… or else, feeling defensive in creative writing classes. Because I wasn’t writing for my audience then.

    But having an audience is a phenomenal feeling… I remember, in those self-same creative writing classes, having a couple of friends read my stuff over first (over pie and coffee, which always helps). The feedback from them was worth it.

    I would say with blogging, it’s ended up much the same. Holly and I started without necessarily having an audience in mind… though somewhat. However, as one has grown, the knowledge that they are there helps fuel the writing.

    Great start to the challenge!

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    • Gene'O says:

      I’m right there with you on the fiction, and it’s no coincidence that fiction is my weakest type of writing. I’ve had personal feedback from hundreds, if not 1,000 people on various forms of non-fiction and tech writing over the years. If I had to guess how many people have ever read a piece of my fiction, I’d say about a dozen.

      This is one of the things that I see missing from a lot of discussions of writing – not so much considering the audience when you start, but getting the feedback and using it to improve.

      We started with a tiny audience, so we were lucky in that regard, and we made a lot of our early decisions based the sorts of conversations were having offline with people who knew we had this in the works. And I agree about the feeling once you actually gain an audience. Knowing they’re there – real people reading what we write – is one of the reasons you so rarely see our blogs go a day without posting something, even if it’s just a video.

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  9. Great post and totally agree. Knowing your audience is critical to your writing if you do it to connect. One size, definitely does not fit all.

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    • Gene'O says:

      Thanks! I didn’t talk to much about connecting here, but that is definitely a big component. Finding ways to really engage with people and form genuine friendships is my top priority, especially with this blog.

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  10. Super idea to create your own A to Z point of view on good writing. You can turn it into a mini e-book at the end of the month! I will be checking back!

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  11. vicbriggs says:

    Know your audience – how many times have I heard this? Great post, Gene’O and a very good reminder.

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    • Gene'O says:

      Thank you! Our state senate passed the bill while I was doing A to Z stuff.

      We will have anger tomorrow at both Sourcerer and Part Time Monster.

      Several of us came out of the district that’s represented by one of the architects of the bill and know him. We are speaking to him personally. (I know I’m in danger of derailing my own thread, but hehe, my blog, my rules, and one of the functions of this blog is to be an actual channel for communication ).

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  12. Vicki says:

    ,Great job, Baby. I love the last line. Can’t wait to read more of this series.

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    • Gene'O says:

      Thanks! I’m pretty sure I stole that line from someone, but can’t remember who. You know what my life was like when I was in my 20s.

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  13. A really great point and one that I think many people forget, or don’t even consider in the first instance.

    I dropped by from the A to Z, but I’m now following your blog!

    Have a great month.

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  14. R.M. Hepler says:

    Audience? I don’t really think about that too much when I’m writing. This might be because I mostly write YA-ish things. Though this post has me thinking I should take more care to consider such things.

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    • Gene'O says:

      Yeah, lots of people don’t think about it at all, and some are even successful without thinking about it.

      But I’m kind of into rhetoric, and I find it helpful to think about who I’m communicating with.

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  15. […] The topics alone had me drooling. I wasn’t disappointed! Check out this awesome post on Audience by Gene’O. I had never thought of it like […]

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  16. […] The topics alone had me drooling. I wasn’t disappointed! Check out this awesome post on Audience by Gene’O. I had never thought of it like […]

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  17. Really great post! Definitely have to remember our audience!
    Carrie~Anne at That Dizzy Chick

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  18. […] point with all this goes back to day 1. Think about who you’re talking to. If you’re talking to people who aren’t specialists, and you’re fortunate enough […]

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  19. […] post, but really, if you think about it, I’ve almost closed a circle I started drawing on Day 1. Tomorrow, we’re on to tone, and from thence to a handful of fabulous words like Villanelle […]

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  20. […] to write about Audience, when I wrote about Author instead, for this A to Z Challenge. So instead, I’ll let you read a post better than I would have written anyway, from the Writing Catalog. I say that in part because I like Gene’O’s writing, but also in part because I […]

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  21. […] gets me to another great post from The Writing Catalog – on Audience. Something that really has not been something I have been thinking about with my blogging. Here on […]

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  22. […] 1:  Audience – Biographical – Canon – Diction – […]

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