Who Are You Writing For? Define Your Audience First

by Suzannah Freeman

Group of people, dressed differently

When you sit down to write something, your first thoughts are probably about the topic.

You might ask yourself how you’re going to cover your subject, what angle you’ll take, or how you’ll make your piece exciting.

But, once you’ve determined your topic, the very first thing you should consider is your audience–that is, who exactly you’re writing for.

Why You Should Define Your Audience First

Define your audience first so that:

  • You meet your readers’ needs. You can’t be all things to all people, and no piece of writing is going to interest everyone. However, you can write to meet the needs of a specific target group.
  • You can picture your reader as you write. If you know who you’re writing for before you begin, you can visualize your target audience during the process. Ask yourself: What do my readers look like? What do they want to get out of this piece? What keeps them awake at night?
  • You won’t go off on tangents. For example, if you know ahead of time that you’re writing for young, single women (as opposed to just women, in general), you’ll be less likely to drift into stay-at-home mom territory.

How to Define Your Audience

You can easily define your target audience by asking yourself a few quick questions:

  1. What is my topic?
  2. In general, who would be most interested in reading about this topic—men, women, boys, or girls? Sometimes your subject might appeal to both men and women, or both boys and girls.
  3. What specific attributes or characteristics apply to my intended audience? For example, will your piece of writing be of interest to all men? Probably not. More likely, it will appeal to retired men, or college-aged men, or men with young families. Likewise, a children’s book won’t necessarily appeal to all children, but it might appeal to boys and girls aged three to five, or girls aged 12 and over, or boys aged six to nine. If your piece will appeal to both men and women, what characteristics define those adults and what they want?

Taking a few moments to define your audience before you start writing helps focus your ideas and meet your readers’ needs.

Your audience will thank you for it.

Who is your typical reader, and what do they want?

Today’s Challenge: Create a reader profile for the next big writing project you complete, and keep it handy as you write.

About the Author: Suzannah Windsor Freeman is the founder of Write It Sideways, a blog where writers learn new skills, define their goals, and increase their productivity. She is co-founder of the Better Writing Habits challenge.

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