I’m hosting a guest post today for the book tour for non-fiction “You Can Love Writing”. Enjoy the guest post.
Our gift with communication is a crucial skill that sets us humans apart from other creatures, but our communication is often flawed. Until mind reading is invented, we’ll just have to rely on our words: speaking, signing, and writing them. We’ll also have to figure out our audience so we explain ourselves in a way that gets through to them. It’s not easy to put yourself in the audience’s perspective, but it’s vital. Teachers have to do it. Politicians have to do it. Writers have to do it. And if communicators don’t do it… well, failing to think from the other side of the conversation, as I like to call it, results in confusion, offense, or discouragement. So next time you write or otherwise deliver an important message, take a moment to stop and think in the following ways.
Envision Your Audience.
Knowing your audience is an important part of communicating. You might think you know your audience, but often people get it wrong, especially when writing. Picture them. How old are they? What do they do for fun? What’s the gender makeup of your audience? Knowing these things will help you make points of reference that resonate with them. If you are a student writer, a big mistake is thinking your teacher is your audience and you can just skim over things he or she knows. There are assignments in which you can make that assumption, but most essays or research papers have you practice writing for a wider audience rather than just one person who already knows you. Pretend like your assignment is something that might be published. Don’t write in a way that screams “I’m doing homework.”
What Do They Know?
So, if you can’t make assumptions about what one person knows, how much can you assume your actual audience knows? Think about the audience you just envisioned. How educated are they? How much does this population deal with this topic? If you are writing for a college class, you can usually write to an audience with a high school education. If someone who graduated from high school wouldn’t necessarily know a fact, you need to explain it.
What’s Their Situation?
Is this an environment or topic that will make the audience happy, sad, nervous, comfortable, or what-have-you? If the audience has a history with this topic, what emotions will come along with it? Do you need to put them at ease or set a serious tone? This step is essential. Every time you encounter someone acting in an inconsiderate manner, that person has forgotten this step.
What Would They Ask?
This question is a tad easier to address in writing. After you write, take a moment to pretend to be your audience and act like you are reading your work for the first time. Ask questions. Look for places your audience could be confused. In truth, there’s only so much you can do this step for yourself before seeking outside help. Enlist a friend to be your audience. If you’re speaking, your audience will ask you questions, but make sure you’ve set a welcoming tone so they feel comfortable doing so.
You’ll Never Get It Perfect.
I wish I could end this with nothing but cheer, but the fact is thinking from the other side of the conversation is a constant struggle. It’s hard to get out of your own head and impossible to do so 100% of the time. All you can do is make a conscious effort and learn from missteps. If you can do that, you’ll be on your way to excellent communication and you’ll be light years ahead of the jerk who honked and cut you off in traffic.
Author: Connie B. Dowell
Genre: Non-Fiction, Educational
How would you like to
- perform with the passion of an Oscar winning actor,
- compete with the drive and fervor of an Olympic athlete, or
- teach like you’ve got a Nobel Prize slung around your neck
all while doing your homework?
Believe it or not, you can do all of this and much more in the course of writing your college papers. This book takes you through the overlapping stages of the writing process, using game mechanics, cooperation, and learning styles to help you have as much fun as possible and take charge of your own education. With exercises and activities for groups and individuals, this text focuses on the meat of writing, the big picture elements that matter most in both college papers and real world writing situations, all with an eye toward enjoyment.
Sit down, crack open this guide, and give your favorite notebook a big hug. You may not have a choice about writing your papers, but who says you can’t love them?
Connie B. Dowell is a writing center coordinator and freelance editor. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia and a Masters of Library and Information Science from Valdosta State University. She lives in Virginia with her husband, where they both consume far more coffee than is probably wise
Twitter at @ConnieBDowell
Facebook at facebook.com/editorcbdowell