Controlling Tone Part 2: Writing to Your Audience

Writing to Your Audience

Estimated Read Time: 2 Minutes 30 Seconds

Successful writing sells. It gets the kid three blocks away to walk to your convenience store for an ice cold Pepsi. It makes your co-worker turn in their half of the monthly progress report on time and inspires your clients to recommend you to other prospects.

Why? Because it makes them care. Rather than telling your reader what you want to accomplish, it offers them something they want. In Part 1 we identified what our audience wants and who they are. Now, lets harness that information into powerful writing.

Over time, your control over the tone of a piece will improve. To begin, here’s a simple checklist:

My audience is an expert in my subject.                                      YES                        NO
Unless you can confidently check yes here, you need to assume your audience doesn’t know any of your industry jargon. Allow them to easily follow your message by speaking about what you do and what you offer in layman’s terms.

My audience is educated.                                                                    YES                        NO
The average adult in the US has about an 8th grade reading level. It would be very precocious of you to assume they had a high level of diction, don’t you think? Rather, say things in simple, common terms.

My audience is formal.                                                                        YES                        NO
Depending on to whom you are writing, the level of formality will vary. For instance, if you’re writing to a blue-collar worker, you might not write the sentence I just did. It could be perceived as stuck up. Perhaps you’d choose to break a grammatical rule and write the above sentence in a more colloquial way:

“Depending on who you are writing to, the level of formality will vary.”

How formal your writing is can also be controlled by contractions. “It’s” gives the air of familiarity, where as “it is” takes a more authoritative stance.

Whether you’re a business, non-profit, or stay-at-home mom, you’re not sending out a message just to hear yourself talk. You want your reader to do something. Take the time to address your audience. Spend a few minutes thinking about to what they’ll respond best. Give them your attention and they’ll give you theirs.