Writing AdviceWriting, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2012

Writing to Attract a Certain Readership


The process of writing is more than just knowing how to put words together – it's also about knowing how to put words together effectively. Proper grammar, while necessary to achieve a certain level of professionalism and validity to your writing, will only get you so far as a writer. There are also nuances like tone, aesthetic distance, connotation, and style that are necessary considerations if you wish to achieve a particular purpose with your words.

Tone

Tone is the writer's attitude toward his or her readers and toward the subject matter, and works the same way in writing as it does in meeting someone for the first time and establishing a connection or rapport with them. Have you ever met someone for the first time and immediately liked that person because of their attitude? Or maybe conversely, you met them and immediately disliked them because their attitude?

As humans, we subconsciously pick up on signals others give us through their body language, word choice, articulation, and approach to a topic. Language is a mathematical process in its basic rules of syntax and grammar, but beyond those, it turns into a pure art form that can be manipulated in multiple ways to communicate. Although it's more difficult to pick up on a writer's tone than it is to pick up on a speaker's tone (because we don't hear the inflection and volume of the writer's voice), tone is still present, and it is still a subconscious indicator for the audience.

This is why it is so important as a writer to consider the tone that comes across in your writing. Measuring that tone against your intent is a crucial step in creating effective writing that will capture your intended audience's attention and achieve the goal you have for your content. If you are selling something, a positive, expert tone is best; if you are writing to persuade your readership to vote for a particular candidate, using the majority of the content to criticize that candidate's opponent too often comes across as juvenile and unprofessional.

Aesthetic distance

A writer's aesthetic distance is their emotional involvement in their work. As with tone, often it is easier to determine emotional involvement when you can hear the words and inflection; however, it is still present in the written word. In the same sense that a speech can be boring and monotone, showing little to no emotional involvement on behalf of the speaker, written content can take on the same "sound", even if that sound is only in the reader's head while reading your words.

Take the following examples:

  1. Product A was released last year and has grown in popularity. Customers have given rave reviews and the online buzz is continuing to spread. Try it today and see what everyone is talking about.
  2. I admit – I was skeptical at first. Despite the glowing online reviews of Product A, I didn't expect the exceptional quality, amazing features, and ease of use that I encountered when I tried it for myself. Now, I know it is a product that I not only can't live without – it's one that I can't wait to share with my friends and family.

Now ask yourself which one shows more emotional involvement on behalf of the writer. It's obviously example 2, and beyond showing more emotional involvement, it is also the more interesting paragraph to read. In marketing, this is the type of paragraph that will get and hold a reader's attention because it is personal, it is emotionally involved, and the aesthetic distance (or lack thereof) of the author creates a better rapport with the intended audience.

Connotation

We all know that a word's connotation is important, especially when it comes to communicating with a wide audience. Just as an author would want to avoid bias and stereotyping in his or her writing, it's also equally as important to pay attention to the connotation that words might have to all audiences reading the content. Is there a word that would have a negative connotation to a certain readership? If so, it's best to replace that word with something less combative or risky in order to avoid alienating your readership.

In the same sense, if you are narrowing your writing to a very specific audience, the connotation of a word can have a big role in this process. This is where buzzwords and jargon are likewise helpful – if you know the words that will get a certain audience's attention, use those words and know the connotation of them before you do. Usually this requires research, but a Google search will generally give you all of the information you need to know about a word's connotation and denotation among various audiences.

Style

Style in literary terminology refers to the way a writer expresses a particular thought or idea. It is the concept of how word choice, while crucial, is only one part of the puzzle; a writer should also consider the most effective way to communicate that idea. Should it be through humor? Candor? Persuasion? Again, knowing your audience and knowing which style would be most attractive to them is important if you want to communicate your message in the most effective way possible.

Knowing your audience is everything. Spend the time researching on the front end to do this, and modify your tone, aesthetic distance, connotation, and style to make it happen.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.
Subscribe
Chat With Us