Tailoring Your Writing to Your Audience
Why Simplified Writing Is Not the Best Writing
To do this well, you must throw certain common adages into the trash. Of these adages, the worst offender is the notion that simple language is always preferable to complex words and sentences. While some content services believe that every article should be written as though it’s going to be read by first-graders, it is definitely not the way to create articles that people will want to read.
Readers know that people who understand a subject have the vocabulary to prove it. If you write as though you’re talking to a first-grader, they won’t see the article as being easy to understand. Instead, an educated person will assume you don’t have a good grasp of the language. Worse yet, those with a decent education will feel insulted if they think the writer has assumed that they can’t understand a normal difficulty level.
Using the Right Words
Simplified writing has another problem: It is insufficient to convey a full range of meanings and nuances. According to Oxford Dictionaries, there are over 250,000 words in the English language. Those were not invented just because people liked making up words. The words exist because they are needed to precisely convey the exact things people want to say.
On the other hand, avoid using words that send most of your audience to a dictionary site just to make sense of your writing. The solution to this is not to avoid complexity. Instead, try to estimate the educational level of the people who will be reading the article and tailor your article to match.
Figuring Out Your Audience’s Level of Education
One of the ways to estimate the educational level of unknown readers is to look at forums dedicated to the subject in question. By reading just a few posts, you can get a feel for the level of language they prefer to use. Check at least three relevant forums to make sure you didn’t just land on an outlying group.
Another method is to look at statistics. This is easiest when the subject involves something people spend money on. Market researchers will have determined the demographics of the relevant buyers. The demographics you should be interested in are income and education levels. Since these two are strongly correlated, you can guess one based on the other.
Determining the Appropriate Tone
Other ways to tailor your writing to your audience include matching the tone the readers are accustomed to and using industry-specific terms when writing about topics where such language is expected. Often, the client will give some direction about the tone. When this doesn’t happen or the instructions are vague, try looking at existing high-quality articles on the topic to see which style is the most prevalent.
With these tips, you should be able to avoid either insulting readers with oversimplification or overwhelming them with complexity. Keep an eye out for other ways to tailor your writing to your audience as well. This will help to ensure that readers always look forward to seeing what you have to say.
Marilynn F is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.