The textbook we use for that course includes a chapter on audience analysis. In the chapter, the author says, “This is one of the most important chapters in this text. As good speakers everywhere know, sensitivity to a specific audience is not optional. It is essential to good speech-making” (Jaffe, 2016, p. 78). In speaking, the importance of considering the audience may be right in front of us–literally. Imagine these two speakers:
We can’t see their audiences, but I’d guess the audiences are very different. And given the different audiences, these speakers may dress differently, use different language, cover different content, speak with different styles, etc.
Depending on our audiences, we should be doing the same as writers. Perhaps because readers are rarely right in front of the writers, the importance of audience consideration is a sometimes neglected part of the writing process. But not in 100W!
For this course, I invite you to put the reader on the forefront of your mind as you write. As you think about your reader(s), you might ask yourself:
Who are they?
What are their goals?
What about their backgrounds, knowledge, experience, training?
What are their needs and interests?
What’s the culture and communication preferences?
What’s their social location?
What’s their physical location?
Depending on your reader(s), every so-called rule about writing can go out the window. Spelling, grammar, active v. passive voice, concise v. flowery language. Audience might impact all those things. Lean into the flowery language for that love letter. Maybe not so much for the business memo.
Audience Impacts Writing
What might change depending on your audience?
type of language
colloquialisms and clichés
tone and style
use of humor
type of visual aids
Take a look at these sample texts. What type of audiences do you imagine each writer had in mind? How is the writing tailored for the audience?
Craigslist.org Classified Ad for Philz Coffee:
Philz Coffee 🤍 Now Hiring Baristas 🤍
Life at Philz is pretty simple: We are committed to do whatever it takes to better someone’s day.
When you join Philz you become part of the Phamily. It’s a place where you can be yourself…
Discussion of Craigslist.org Classified Ad for Philz Coffee:
Did anyone proofread the Philz ad before they posted it? They misspelled “Family.” Hopefully you know I’m being facetious. Who’s Philz audience? They’re probably not looking to hire anyone who has a problem with their creative spelling of Phamily. The key thing to take away from this: even spelling can vary depending on your audience.
And check out those hearts surrounding the phrase “Now Hiring Baristas.” The appropriateness of using hearts will really vary based on your audience and context.
Email from Food Delivery Service (sent to me–I live in the Bay Area):
Do the Dubs win more games when you order curry? Is there a positive correlation between 3’s going in and tandoori going in your mouth? Is the secret to free throws (Shaq still wants to know) actually just garlic naan? The answer is yes.
So order your favorite tikka masala (or whatever else, no pressure) on our statistic-influencing app.
You’re the boom to our shakalaka.
Discussion of Email from Food Delivery Service
This email has some fun based on knowing the reader’s location. The message wouldn’t make as much sense to someone living in Chicago.
Your Text Messages
For some great examples for the ways a reader influences a message, take a look at your own text messages. Do they change depending on the intended reader? Do they always use the ‘proper’ grammar and spelling and punctuation we learned in school? Maybe not. Are the messages still effective? Probably.
Readers You Know Well
Text messages often benefit from familiarity between the sender and receiver. We don’t always have that luxury in writing, but when we do, we should take advantage of that!
If you know your reader well:
jargon might be okay
inside jokes might be okay
Star Statements (see below) might be useful
allusions (see below) might be useful
Star Statements are direct quotes from experts, eyewitnesses, world leaders, celebrities, etc. They can lend credibility to your writing while also varying the voice.
To make Star Statements extra effective, choose them based on your audience. Who does your reader know, like, or respect? It doesn’t even need to be someone famous (e.g. As Grandpa always said…).
For example, if you’re writing your teenage cousin an email, she might value a quote from–actually, I really don’t know. You know your cousin better than I do. But you might choose to quote someone else when you’re writing to SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.
Allusions are short references to people, events, stories, songs, etc. They rely on your reader being familiar with the reference and its meaning. If your reader gets it, an allusion can be a great way to stimulate ideas and associations in a short amount of space.
As with quotes, the reference could be to something or someone famous, for example: I wish I could just click my heels and go home. This relies on you being familiar with The Wizard of Oz.
But it doesn’t have to be something or someone famous, as long as your reader will get it (e.g. Please stop acting like my ex-husband.)
More on Audience
We’ll continue to think about audience. Coming right up for Workshop 3, you’ll practice writing with a specific audience in mind.
Jaffe, C. I. (2016). Public speaking: concepts and skills for a diverse society. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.Then, please excuse the language and read “Shitty First Drafts” by Anne Lamott.
Write at least 200 words summarizing Lamott’s “Shitty First Drafts” for an audience of your choice. This audience might be children, your aunt, your soccer team, a crowd waiting for a flight at the airport, your dental hygienist–the choice is yours and feel free to be creative!
Include a note at the top with a few sentences stating the intended audience and how you kept that audience in mind while writing your summary. Include a specific thing you did to tailor your summary for your intended reader(s).
I chose my sister to be my audience.