Identify the Audience and Target Their Interests
Two strategies to increase the chances your article will be published and read
As an editor for several publication, I find an article that rambles the most challenging. A misspelled word, a misplaced punctuation mark or an awkward sentence present errors that are easy to address. But if the writing rambles or is creates confusion, there is not one question or one suggestion that will unify the piece.
A piece that lacks focus, changes topics, and shifts in voice forces me to politely inform the writer that their piece is not a good fit at this time. Rejection is unsettling because the writer invested a part of themselves in their work. Unfortunately, it would be a disservice to publish material that prompts questions and confusion.
Two common problems cause disorganization. Either the writer has not identified the audience or the topic is too broad to be manageable.
Identify your audience
One article cannot speak to everyone. A writer must modify the content to a specific, defined audience. Just as a speaker changes their approach to the interest of the audience, adjustments must occur in writing. Each group brings different experiences, beliefs and expectations to the situation that require a unique approach.
When a writer neglects to address the readers’ needs and interest, the writing either deviates from the intended purpose or attempts to satisfy too many needs. Finding the appropriate audience for a piece is essential to success.
Question to ask when defining the audience
- What is the topic?
- What is the purpose? (i.e. entertain, inform, teach, persuade, etc.)
- How difficult is the reading?
- Is a prior understanding or specific vocabulary required?
- How long does it take to read?
- Are there any illustrations, graphs, or charts?
- What is unique about the style?
- What age would enjoy this piece of writing?
- What characteristics describe the reading audience?
- Why is this an appropriate audience?
Most of questions can be answered prior to writing. Even if in the beginning you think you have isolated the correct audience, prior to submitting to a publication, return to your paper, reread it, and determine if the final draft aligns with the personality of your audience. This may spark a need for revision. If you answer yes, submit. If you answer no, determine what you need to do differently and do it.
Narrow a topic to a manageable size
Topics often start out broad and need to be pared down to manageable material. Before beginning the first draft, writers benefits if they view the topic as the bull’s-eye on a target.
At first the topic may be too broad if it requires a book of information and you are allowed a page. Then revisions may decrease or even change the message. The power of one word or phrase can drastically alter meaning. But with practice the topic will evolve to a sharp point that bring the idea into focus.
Practice focusing by increasingly narrowing the topic. It is not possible to know exactly how many times the topic will change as it morphs but continue until one sentence states what your paper is about. Keep an open mind as you experiment and revise until the target is hit and an sufficient topic statement appears.
Examples of narrowing topics
When the writing is deemed complete, return to the original statement of purpose and determine that each sentence communicates and supports the original statement. Revise when the text is confusing or the reader is confronted with contradictory information. In this way the final piece remains focused and powerful.
Identify your readers and write to them
Pretend your audience sits in front of you as you address their interests, concerns, and emotions. By writing to a person, your words gain power and become personal.
About the author
Stories about life that inspire emotions - mostly humor.
Lessons about writing based on my textbook, Strategies for Teaching Writing.
Poetry and essays about the of art of being human.
I write therefore, I am.