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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

You Will Write For Whom: Audience Is The Right Answer

Try putting yourself in the shoes of the readers to whom you are directing your message. How will they react to the information? What information do they care most about? What do they need from you?

Knowing your audience will also help you determine the degree of formality with which you should write. For example, though contractions such as “I’ll” or “we’ll” were once considered casual shorthand for the proper terms “I shall,” “I will,” “we shall,” or “we will,” formal business writing no longer frowns upon their use. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules on using casual contractions, knowing who you are writing for should dictate whether to use them or not. If you are unsure, always err on the side of caution and avoid contractions and other less-formal conventions. Keep the stamp of professionalism uppermost in your mind.

In today’s global economy, with more and more companies outsourcing parts of their business functions to firms in other countries, communicating with colleagues and customers outside the United States has become common. When writing to an international business audience, be mindful that they tend to prefer more formal communications. For example, refrain from addressing overseas business contacts by their first names unless instructed otherwise; always use their full names, or address them by title and last name (“Ms. Jones,”“Mr. Smith”).

Dos and Don'ts During Writing For Your Audience

Keeping your audience in mind means being aware of and addressing their particular concerns.
  • Do orient your message around the reader’s interests.
  • Do determine the level of formality based on your audience.
  • Do maintain a professional tone, even in less formal writing.
  • Don’t forget to take cultural and language differences into consideration.
  • Do invite readers to respond.