It’s often been said that writers need to know their audience. However, “audience” is a collective noun, like “people”. But one secret to effective writing is to direct your work to one ideal reader.
John Steinbeck wrote: “Your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person—a real person you know or an imagined person—and write to that one.”
Good advice. Remember, even though what you write may be read by many people, it will, more than likely, be read by one person at a time.
In On Writing Well, William Zinsser advised: “Don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience, every reader is a different person.”
So, write for one person. Maybe it’s someone you know—a family member, a friend, a colleague, a client or patient, etc. Or it can be an imaginary person. Think of someone holding your work and wanting to get something from your words.
One way to do this is to imagine that your reader is sitting in the same space you’re writing in, and you’re speaking to that person rather than writing.
When you write for one person, it’s easier to stay focused on your message—to keep it simple, concise and direct.
When you write for one person, you’ll likely tend to avoid formality. Again, just talk in a friendly way, as if your reader were sitting opposite you. In this way, you can relax and “speak” in your own unique writing voice.
When you write for one person, you give up the notion of trying to make your writing be all things for all people. Instead, your message will resonate with your target reader—a human being.
You owe this way of writing to your reader and to yourself. There’s power in focusing on one reader. Try thinking this way the next time you sit down to write.
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