Monday, June 8, 2009

Know Your Audience: A Tip for New Writers

Nan Levinson speaks primarily to business writers in her book 'How to Sharpen Your Business Writing Skills', but her advice resonates with any writer who needs to share information or perspective about a subject.

Usually business writers, says Levinson, are trying to accomplish one of three things: “To present ideas, recommendations, or decisions; to explain something, or to persuade someone to agree with you or to join you in taking some action.” When you’ve decided what you need to accomplish, you’re ready to ask yourself such questions as “Who are my readers? Usually,” she adds, “there are several” including “higher-level readers, lower-level readers, peer-level readers, and external readers.”

Levinson offers these suggestions to help you tailor your message to your audience:

Consider the Reader’s Point of view
Your first piece of psychology involves identifying the benefits to your readers. Your second is to present your message with their perspective clearly in mind. Focus on readers’ concerns rather than on your own, and make your language reflect that focus. A good place to start is with the word 
you. Advertisers and salespeople have long understood the value of writing in the second person (you and your)…

Use an Appropriate Tone
Tone is the writer’s attitude toward the reader and subject matter as expressed – intentionally or unintentionally – in the way a message is written. Chances are, you’ve received memos or letter than annoyed or angered you by their tone. They may have been patronizing, intrusive, snobbish, demanding, or too familiar, and your response may well have been to crumple them up and toss them out.

Since an appropriate tone depends on an appropriate attitude, the psychology of persuasive writing begins at home. The key to controlling the tone of your writing is to imagine how the reader will respond and to choose words that will create the mood you desire.

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