In my book, Write Now, I describe 15 simple steps for good writing. Step 1 is know your purpose. You need a objective or goal for writing. This may be to inform, to persuade or to build goodwill.
Step 2 is know your audience. "There is no way you will achieve your purpose if you don't know who you are writing to." (p. 20)
Ideally, you should know your readers' background, their experience and education. You should also know their status. Are they colleagues, your boss, a client or the general public? For example, you don't want to sound like a know-it-all when writing to your boss or a dummy to a client.
Know Your Audience: Communication styles
A good way to know your audience is understanding communication styles. In her book, Better Business Writing, Sue Brock describes four communication styles. She bases this on the work of Carl Jung, a well-known Swiss psychiatrist.
She looks at the strengths and weaknesses of each style. She also lists some common jobs associated with each style. She shows their opposite style too.
- Action style people.
They focus on doing, achieving and solving problems. These people may be managers, executives or entrepreneurs. Their opposite style is idea style people (#4).
- Thinker style individuals.
They are processed oriented. They like fact finding and organizing. Thinker people may be accountants, bankers or attorneys. Opposite to them are feelers (#3).
- Feeler style folks.
They are people oriented. They enjoy interaction, communication and teamwork. Feeler style business people may be sales associates or trainers. They are opposite thinkers (#2).
- Idea style readers.
They are intuitive, interested in concepts, theories and creativity. They may be corporate planners or advertising persons. The opposite style is action people (#1)
A nice feature in Brock's book is that she gives examples of business letters addressed to each style.
For example, if you are writing to an action style person be clear and direct. Don't waste the person's time. The business letters are worth checking out.
Know Your Audience: Generational Profile
Another good way to know your audience is to understand generational differences. We can look at four broad age categories: traditionalists, baby boomers, generation X and millennials.
- Traditionalists: those born before 1946
- Baby Boomers: those spanning 1946 to 1964
- Generation X: individuals born between 1965 and 1980
- Millennials: people born between 1981 and 2000.
Each group has a very different worth ethic and values. Each also has special ways of working. It's important to know these when communicating with them.
In future blog posts I will look at each one of these generations separately. Check my post on writing for traditionalists.
To which age group do you belong?
If you are writing for a digital audience, be sure to check out Katie's post. Find out simple ways to make your text readable.