General Studies Writing Program
Audience and Values Exploration
Effective communication creates a relationship between at least two active minds. When we speak, it's usually obvious to us that there are two active minds involved in the relationship - ours and our listener's. We craft our speech to suit the person to whom we are speaking; we adjust the tone (emotional attitude), vocabulary, amount of information, strategy, and many other things without giving the process of adjustment much conscious thought. We anticipate the listener's reactions and attitudes, and we react if we see that we're not connecting or are being misunderstood.
However, many people forget that effective writing, like effective speaking, creates a relationship between at least two active minds. As a result, many writers write as if they had no reader in mind, or as if all readers were clones, thinking like they think, knowing what they know, valuing what they value. In these cases, writers may not keep the reader's knowledge, perspective, needs, and values in mind; as well, they may not anticipate and address the reader's reactions and objections. And because the reader isn't physically present to react, these writers may not be aware that their writing is missing its mark and failing to achieve its purpose with its very real reader.
How can a writer become more audience-centered? First, a writer should always keep in mind that when writing on a focused topic, the writing should address a specific audience (which may be an individual or a group of individuals). As a writer prewrites, spending considerable time thinking through and utilizing the Audience and Values Exploration worksheet can allow a writer to come to know their readers and the needs and expectations that readers will bring to their essays. Once the audience's needs have been considered, a writer will be ready to communicate with their readers, not just putting words on paper.
Click on the link to view a PDF of the Audience and Values Exploration worksheet (PDF will open in a new tab).