Who Cares About What We Write?

Writing AudienceWho cares?

Who cares about what we’re writing?

Answering this is essential when we write almost anything. It is the “who” – the audience – that will determine what and how we write.

“I write what I want people to know,” is the attitude many writers take.  How do we determine that’s what people want?

Very few readers, especially in the age of electronic media, have the time or patience to read anything that doesn’t immediately interest them or that includes information they don’t really need. As a result, we must look at who will care about what we write.

Ask the Questions

How do we go about doing that? The first thing is to consider some essential questions:

  • What does our audience already know?
  • What are the audience characteristics?
  • What does the audience need or want to get out of the information we’re giving them?
  • How might our audience use the information?
  • How can we package our content to meet the readers’ needs?

Paint a Picture

Answering these questions is important, but we need to start somewhere.  One thing that is helpful is to come up with a reader persona. Sit down and create a character to write for. For instance, it may be Sylvia who is a middle-aged, married, professional woman with teenaged children. Or it could be Jamal, a thirty-something owner of a small accounting firm in a medium-sized Midwestern city.

These two different characters will have different needs as well as background that we, as writers, need to keep in mind.

Mine the Internet

Getting background information on our potential readers is getting easier and easier because of the Internet. I have a business friend who has encouraged me to delve into GoggleAnalytics. It is positively fascinating some of the information I can mine from that!

There are other ways to get information. Go up on Twitter or Tumblr to find out what is trending. If you’re writing marketing copy, check out the business’s customer demographics. Business writers should determine if the readers are executives, employees, regulators, or customers. Fiction authors can cruise fan pages – theirs and other writers’.

Once we know who we’re writing for, it makes it much easier to come up with the what and how of our content. We’ll know how to package it to make it more attractive to our readers. That, in turn, will make our writing that much more successful.

Next week: Headlines Matter.

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A Wordsmith’s Top 10 Reasons for Giving Thanks

It’s that time of year, and I am thankful for so many things (like any time the New York RangerThanksgivings win).

Yet, as a writer and editor, I find myself grateful for being able to “play” in the world of words.

Here, in a Letterman-esque way, are ten of the language-associated things I am most thankful for:

10. Word processing software – until you are forced to write using only a typewriter, you really can’t appreciate what a blessing this is.

9. Laptops, tablets, and mobile communication devices – I like to write in my office, but it’s nice to know that I don’t have to. It’s also great to be able to research and communicate anywhere at any time.

8. A constant curiosity – I love learning new things and sharing them with others. This makes me easy to entertain. I can sit and watch the birds interact in my back yard and be perfectly happy, especially when I can write about it in my journal afterward.

7. A large vocabulary – with so many options in the English language to say something, it is nice to have at my disposal a vast array of words from which to choose just the right flavor. (Thanks, Mom!)

6. A work life that lets me “play” – being an editor, writer, evaluator, and instructor has put me squarely in the middle of all that I enjoy: words, phrasing, teaching, and ideas.

5. The freedom to write – it is nice to be able to write what I want and express an opinion without having goons from the government hauling me off to an anonymous, no-woman’s land where I will never be heard from again. (Thank you to all who have served in the U.S. military for that!)

4. Other “grammar freaks” – it’s nice to know there are other people out there who have a compulsion to correct poor grammar and writing. They can truly understand my situation. (Power to the grammarians!)

3. The Internet and social media – these technologies are modern miracles of communication. They allow me to research, read, write, and connect on an easier, higher level. They constitute the Jacuzzi of communication for me, allowing me to immerse myself in a way previously impossible.

2. New connections and acquaintances – through this blog, networking, and teaching, I have met many people who have generously shared their viewpoints, tips, and love of writing.

1. Old friends – I have remained in contact with friends and even reconnected with some who have drifted away over the years. They are my support system encouraging me or telling me like it is whenever I need it. They are my gyroscope helping me stay oriented on my writing path.

My hope is that we all stop for just a moment in the midst of our busy lives to truly appreciate and give thanks for the good things in our lives. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Pause Before Posting

Poor grammar professorI was reading a LinkedIn post the other day concerning education in America. The writer was well educated and experienced. Most of the people responding had alphabet soup after their names.
The conversation was civil, and the replies showed deep thought.

Those participating were obviously concerned and looking for answers.

With that elevated level of discussion, anyone would expect a display of strong writing skills. There were a few minor mistakes in the original post. Considering its length, the mistakes were, if not acceptable, at least excusable.

In the replies, there was a discord between degreed people discussing problems with the educational system and the grammar and usage mistakes they made. There’s a real problem of credibility when someone decrying the state of the schools in this country doesn’t know the difference between then and than; its or it’s; there, they’re, or their.

“Come on! It’s the Internet. People make mistakes.”

Look, I understand the nature of the medium, but that doesn’t mean I ignore the irony. If anything, the speed and pervasiveness of the Internet makes it much more important for a writer to pay attention to the impression she projects.

So many times we rush to get in on the conversation. Yet this is a written conversation, and it requires adherence to a set of rules.

Educated posters who make mistakes in grammar are like opera divas who sing off key. So how can we avoid this dissonance?

Revise

Take the time to look over posts and correct mistakes before clicking the post icon. This is hard to do in the heat of a conversation, but even a short reply should be looked over for mistakes before sending it off into social networking land.

Read it out loud

One of the best tips I ever received and am always happy to pass on is to read whatever is written out loud. It is truly amazing how many mistakes and awkward sentences a person can avoid by doing this.

Know your grammar gremlins

It is important to be familiar with the writing mistakes we make, so we can be sure to correct them. We can’t destroy our writing reputations with careless, consistent errors.

Slow down

Speed is the boon and bane of the Internet. We rush to get our two cents’ worth out there at the risk of our credibility. It’s easy to type out and post a reply quickly, but that doesn’t mean we have to. Take a little time to clean up those posts. The Internet will still be there.