Something happened at work today that really highlighted why it’s important to know your reader when you’re writing no matter what it is that you’re writing. The incident is completely in line with what we’ve been talking about in articles like Building a Reader (the beginning stages of building a reader) and Becoming Frankenstein (developing your ideal reader).
Just in case you didn’t know, I spend my daytime hours working with researchers of every stripe. My official title is research development specialist, but that’s just a short way to say I help write grants and other material that allows researchers to continue their work and make it public.
So, on to what happened today. One of these researchers has completed a really amazing study and wants to let the world know about it. Like most researchers, this individual wrote a brilliant article detailing his work and the results from it. Other scientists who read it will love it.
When he came to me, this friend thought he’d submit essentially the same article to popular science magazines.
See the problem yet?
In the popular science magazines, my friend will find a less academic but still interested general audience – if he writes in a way that gains their interest. The written language this friend uses to talk to his fellow scientists is not exactly the easy reading folks expect in the popular mags.
When I asked him about his intended audience, my friend just gave me a baffled look. What on earth did I mean?
Obviously, anyone interested in science would be interested in this research. On the other hand, not everyone is willing to read through the academic-speak to know what he discovered.
To be considered by the popular science magazines, my friend needed to change the way he presented his information, starting with the press release he intended to send to the journalists who decide which articles to print.
Whatever you write, whether it’s an essay for an English assignment, a report for business, or your own fictional story, don’t forget to consider your reader, the kind of language they speak, and what kind of information will mean something to them.