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The basics of reader-oriented writing

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cult guidelines VT poster A3Good writing is more than perfect grammar or a large vocabulary

Writing is a skill that requires practice regardless of what language you write in. This holds true not only for fiction, but also for writing reports and other business correspondence. How many times have you received a poorly written email or read a report from a colleague that left you scratching your head? The problem often lies in who the writer is focused on. Too often, that focus is either on the writer or the content and not where it should be: the reader. By focusing on the needs of the reader, the writer can deliver the message more effectively and ensure the attention of the reader will be maintained.

The goal is to put the reader in the spotlight

You want to keep the reader’s interest stimulated so they keep reading. Once you are able to answer the questions below and have analyzed what you want to achieve, then you are ready to choose a format or text structure and start writing. You will find that your writing is more directed, and you will gain confidence in your writing ability because you will know why you are writing.

Who are my readers?

Such a simple question, but if you don’t know who your audience is, you are basically writing for yourself, and then it becomes just an ego piece.

Where are my readers from?

This could be relevant. Knowing where your readers are from will help you understand them from a cultural perspective.

What excites them?

This should be the question, not “How do I not bore them?” Once you discover what excites your readers, you will have them hooked, and they will keep coming back for more.

What are they afraid of?

The knowledge of what your readers’ fears are will help you keep the reader engaged by avoiding topics that would cause them to stop reading your piece.

What do I want to share with them and why?

This takes the first question and goes a bit deeper. It is important to understand the reasons behind writing in the first place. It is assumed you have a message or information you want to convey, but knowing why the audience would be interested makes it easier to write more effectively.

How is my content relevant to my intended audience?

It is important to try and see things from the reader’s perspective. If you don’t know the relevancy of your message, the intended audience won’t know it, either. They also won’t waste their time reading what you have written.

What is my and my organization’s history with them?

If you have previous experience with your audience, you can draw on this and learn from it in order to produce more interesting content. Take a previously produced piece and ask yourself how it could have been better. From this introspection, your subsequent pieces will be increasingly valuable to your readers.

How do they like to receive information?

The structure and layout of your content is just as important as the message. Maybe your readers don’t like dense passages full of explanations and prefer lighter writing with graphical explanations. Maybe it’s the opposite. Either way, you owe it to them to find out.

What questions do they have?

Once you understand your readers well enough, you can predict what questions they would ask. By including the answers in your writing, the readers feel you know them well, and they trust you more.

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(If you are interested in learning more about reader-oriented writing, please consider Target Training’s seminar on this topic)

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