Audience

We’ve talked about purpose, focus, organization, and development.  All of these issues are very important for being able to achieve what you want to with your writing.

There’s more to it than those elements, though.  You need to keep your audience in mind.

Who are you writing for?  Are you planning on persuading, or just entertaining them?  What do they need?  What do you need to do to convince them that your argument is right, if you’re being persuasive?

Say you’re trying to be persuasive.  Say you have a proposal for something, and it’s something you really want done.  First question: who can get done what you want done?

For example, say you’re a college student, and you want to get the chairs in a particular classroom replaced.  They’re ugly, uncomfortable, and completely unsafe–the rivets are loose, several bits are broken, and most of the desks feel like they could simply fall apart when the students sit down in them.

Who is your audience?  Who can change that?  The university president?  He’d take your proposal…and put it directly in the round filing cabinet next to his desk, otherwise known as the trash can.  So, who should you direct your proposal to?

What department takes care of the grounds?  With Missouri Southern, it’s the physical plant.  So.  That’s where you direct your proposal.  To whom do you direct it?  The director is probably going to react the same as the president.  The secretary can’t do anything to replace the chairs.  Neither will the paint supervisor, the guy in charge of planning the flower beds, or the guy in charge of the fire suppression systems.  Hmm…the carpentry supervisor looks promising.  So does the facilities planner.  It will sort of depend on what you want done to replace the desks.

Say you want to replace the desks with three or four long, narrow tables.  The carpentry supervisor may be who you need to direct your idea to.  How do you convince him?  What does he need to be convinced?

He needs to see that this is something that would be good for the university, because that’s what’s good for his job, and what’s best for him keeping his job, and maybe earning a bonus–or a raise.  So, how do you convince him of this?

The same way you convince any other employee of the university: point out how the desks reflect on the university.  How the ugly desks make the university look like it doesn’t care about its students or its image, how uncomfortable desks might drive enrollment elsewhere, and how a collapsing desk may lead to a student being badly hurt on university grounds by university equipment.  Then, point out the benefits of building tables and acquiring chairs.  Point out that it’s cheaper that replacing the desks with new desks, that repair for the desks isn’t really possible with their construction, and that the new, updated facilities will increase enrollment.

Do it that way, and you’re convincing your audience that what you want is in their best interests.

If you focus on what you want, and why you want it?  Yeah, they’re not gonna care.  Your standard university employee doesn’t give half a damn about the students or their comfort.  Your standard university employee only cares about their job, and about the money whatever you want will cost–or save, by avoiding possible lawsuits–the university.

Focus your arguments on what your audience wants.  What your audience cares about.  Because your audience won’t care about you (unless your audience is your parents or grandparents).

And don’t forget to maintain your focus and organization, or to adequately develop your justification of why your proposal is in your audience’s best interests.