Writing for Your Audience and Your Medium

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Family watching television, c. 1958

Image via Wikipedia

Over the last few days I’ve been reminded again how important it is to write for your audience and your medium. We’ve all heard about writing for the intended audience (you don’t write at a college level when your audience is 4th graders) and how important it is to make sure the audience will understand what you’re trying to say. If we’re lucky we’ve even had a little time to study the audience and understand them. The final product has a better chance of being accepted when we know the audience and write for them.

A lot of people forget about the importance of writing to the medium as well. In my experience a lot of people forget that there is a difference between the way you should write for a text-book, a presentation, a website and video. The delivery method has a huge impact on the way information is received, so it should influence the content itself. For example, how do you think a video would be received when the script sounds like it’s been directly lifted from a text-book? Would a presentation have the same feeling as an article on a web? If you want to be successful the answer should be no.

I’ve worked in video, marketing and instructional design. I’ve written for everything from TV promos to kiosks to instructor guides. Trust me, if you want to hold people’s interest and make your point you need to think about how your message is being delivered. If what you delivered will be read aloud, then you need to read it out-loud. You need to hear the way the words sound together and make sure it’s easy to listen to, and just as importantly, that it can be easily read. If the words are awkward or hard to say the person you are trying to communicate with will have a hard time receiving the message. I have had the opportunity to rewrite a number of scripts so that look good on paper, but when you read them out loud it is a whole different story. (As a side note, scripts that have been proofread and approved by lawyers is often difficult to read out-loud and to hear).

Take my advice, and save yourself a lot of trouble, add delivery medium to the list of  things you think about before you start to write. Your audience will thank you for it.

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