So you know why you're writing. But do you know your readers? In this video, look at how they differ, for example, by age, education, lifestyle, and tastes. Further, physical and language limitations could keep your readers from getting your message at all. Learn how these factors affect how they experience language—and how to best reach them through it.
- The word diversity is often thrown around without a good sense of just how diverse the world actually is. It includes people who can't see, people who can't read well, and people whose English is spotty. These factors will affect whether a particular person will receive your message. But receiving is only the first part. That only determines whether the message is seen and understood by that person. It must also capture their attention, engage them, excite them. This is where the art of writing comes in.
It's why we read about products we'll never buy or recommend. There's entertainment value in the marketing itself. But from your point of view as the writer, the engagement of non-buyers really isn't all that valuable. So, the piece has to be relevant to the specific person as well. Finally, it has to be actionable. They don't make car ads for children because kids can't drive. The message is directed to those who have the power to act. Now, these factors aren't hierarchical, they don't follow a particular order.
But the more factors you have in play, the more control you'll have over the impact your message creates. Here's another way to look at them. Whether a message is understandable depends on how well the language you use matches the recipients. Whether it's engaging depends on how well you understand and match their cultural expectations. Its relevance to them relies on their position in a company, in a family, or in society at large. And whether they can act upon it depends on their power in terms of law or economics or social acceptability.
Clearly, you won't reach everybody. What's relevant to one person is totally irrelevant to the next, and so on. This is why the people who create messages, including writers, have to break the population down into groups, and then craft messages to reach them. This is called market segmentation, and it takes some thought and study. It also means accepting that you won't reach people quite as well who are outside of your targeted segments, but you will reach your select audience with greater impact.
So, how does this affect you as a writer? Pretty much in every way. Knowing how members of your audience understand language changes the words you use and the length and construction of your sentences. Knowing their culture lets you make references that they will understand and appreciate. Knowing their position gives you a peek into their needs and motivations. And knowing their power guides what actions you can realistically ask of them. This is true of any kind of writing, from slogans to song lyrics to novels.
But it means getting away from the page and focusing instead on the people who will read it.
- Seeing through your readers' eyes
- Responding to what readers want
- Understanding how people read
- Quickly grabbing your readers' attention
- Getting to the point
- Untangling (and subverting) grammar
- Using sentence rhythm for effect
- Matching style to genre