Keep Your Reader in Mind

April 6, 2011

I often ask students, “Who do you write for? Yourself? The reader? Who?” Many new writers tell me they write for themselves. Of course, it’s important you enjoy writing, you have an interest in your topic, and you are proud of what you write, so in that sense writing for yourself is good.

However, you’ll enjoy more success as a writer if you keep your reader in mind. Think of your reader as a house guest you’ve invited into your home. Wouldn’t you take special care in making sure your reader felt welcome? So it should be when you invite a reader into your book, into your article, into your writing of any type.

Here are some questions to ponder to help you keep the reader in mind.

  • Who is your reader? Can you picture him/her? I tell my students to peruse magazines until they find a photo of someone who represents their reader, then cut the photo out and tape it to the computer monitor so it’s in front of them whenever they write.
  • What does the image of your reader tell you about the reader’s attitude toward life in general?
  • What do you think appeals to this reader?
  • What do you think turns this reader off?
  • What does this reader need to know?
  • What does this reader expect to learn/get/achieve by reading your writing?

Once you get in touch with your reader, it’s easier to remember that you are having a one-on-one relationship (writer to reader) with your reader. One of the mistakes I see many new writers make is they forget they are not writing to the masses. They write, “Most of you…,” or “Some of you…,” when they should write, “You may…” or “If you…” to show the reader the personal connection between two individuals communicating.

And, yes, I do know communication is sending and receiving between two parties. However, the reader cannot send feedback to the writer, so it is critical the writer keep the reader in mind and, using the questions above, try to anticipate what the reader needs, then strive to meet those needs.

Keeping the reader in mind is not difficult, but it is important. Start doing it today and you’ll absolutely do a better job in communicating with your writing.

Happy writing!