Writing for an Audience: Building on What You Know to Communicate Better Goals

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Writing for an Audience:


  • Learn five main questions for considering your audience
  • Identify key elements in a syllabus for insight into your teacher’s expectations
  • Discuss your questions and concerns

Five Key Questions

  • Do you have a specific intended audience?
  • Who is your intended audience? What are their personal characteristics?
  • What is their job, profession, or field of expertise?
  • What does your audience know about your topic? What could they NOT know about your topic, considering their personal characteristics?
  • What is their level of need/interest regarding your writing? How will your audience use your writing?

Intended Audience?

  • BEFORE you write, ask yourself who you are writing for.
  • “Profile” the people who will be reading your writing.
  • The more specific the audience, the more focused your writing.

Who Is Your Audience?

Who Is Your Intended Audience?

  • Personal characteristics:
      • Where they live
      • When they went to school (age)
      • Gender, class, ethnicity
      • Language proficiency
      • Time constraints

Job, Profession, Expertise?

  • Where does your audience work?
  • What field is your audience in?
  • What subject(s) is your audience an expert in?

What Does Audience Know?

  • No one is 100% knowledgeable or 100% ignorant
  • Allow for a range of abilities and knowledge
  • Balance accuracy of terms or complexity with explanations

Audience Needs?

  • Making informed decisions
  • Intellectual challenge
  • Emotional investment
  • Entertainment/Diversion

Clues to Audience in a Syllabus

  • Required
  • Course Description, Goals, Methods
  • Expectations, Attendance, Participation
  • Format
  • Pace, Schedule
  • “I” statements
  • Note
  • Grade/Rubric
  • Key Words:


  • Textbooks set the tone, tell a lot about the teacher’s philosophy/mood:
    • Thick, dry tomes: standardized for the subject, not personal
    • Novels, nonfiction essays: personal, intimate, emotional connections demanding self-investment

Required II

  • Materials = individual preferences of the teacher, i.e., audience!
  • Listen in class for what to buy and when
    • Vocal stress or exclamation points = emotional value placed on these preferences

Course . . .

  • Description/Methods – the overall style or layout of the class, the general way to achieve the goals
  • Goals/Outcomes/Objectives/By the end of the course you should . . . – The point of the class, the skills instructors will expect you to know when you take a higher-level class
  • Requirements – the specific tasks of the particular instructor, i.e., the audience expectations


  • Course participation, attendance = critical to success in any course
    • School/Division policies, e.g., no plagiarism! and absence limits affect grades
    • Behavior in class: turn cell phones off, remove hats and earbuds, respect others (Your classmates are your audience, too, and they can have strict expectations!)


  • Style of class, but more often . . .
  • Audience expectations of your writing!
    • Appearance: MLA or APA, font, point size
    • Feel: stapled, manageable, smooth


  • Self-paced = personal responsibility to be on schedule, meet the mileposts
  • Fast-paced = personal responsibility to be well prepared before each week begins
  • Schedule: identify due dates, exams, days of no classes, dates readings to be discussed

“I” statements

  • I expect . . . I require . . .
  • I do not . . . I will not . . .
  • I collect . . . I will look for . . .
  • I am here to help/I am on your side
  • I can be reached at/My office hours are . . .


  • “Note” signals very important information or an intricately detailed explanation
  • N.B. = (Latin) nota bene ‘note well’


  • Grade = level to which you met audience expectations
  • Rubric = the “ruler” used to measure and calculate your grade

Audience Pet Peeves

  • Speeling Errors
  • If you want to be taken seriously, spell well!
  • 2. “You…you…you…” Huh? I was never there.
  • Own your personal experiences!
  • 3. Overwrought, overdone, overcooked verbiage
  • K.I.S.S.—Keep It Simple, Silly!

To Summarize

  • Ask yourself the five questions to conceptualize your audience
  • Review your syllabus and lecture notes for your teacher’s expectations
  • You are an expert on your own experiences, so be your audience’s informant while respecting their intelligence


  • “Audience.” Writing@CSU. 1993-2009. The Writing Center at Colorado State University. 19 Feb. 2009 .
  • “Audience Planner.” Online Technical Writing. No date. No organization. 19 Feb. 2009 .
  • “Winter 2009 Classes: English.” Arts & Humanities: Student Info. Bellevue College. 7 May 2009 .
  • Hale, Stephen. “Writing for an Audience.” Georgia Perimeter College. 19 Feb 2009 http://facstaff.gpc.edu/~shale/ humanities/composition/handouts/audience.html>.

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