Who am I talking to?

How thinking clearly about WHO you are writing to or for should influence everything about your writing and heighten its effectiveness.

There is nothing more irritating than receiving a message so full of jargon and technical terms that you need to take a course to understand it. Even worse is a message that is so simple and superficial that you, with your expert knowledge, cannot diagnose the problem.

These problems arise when we don’t think long or hard enough about WHO we are writing for before we start a document, email or message of any kind.

When we think of WHO we are writing for, several factors come into play:

  • What words should I use?
  • How complex can I make the message?
  • What do these people need?
  • What do they already know?

These are important questions because they tell you what you MUST include and what you can leave out.

It might seem strange to say you should leave things out of your writing. The challenge is that, if you include too much information, it is hard for your audience to prioritise what they are receiving. How do they compare it to the other information? What is essential, what is extra?

In essence, then your reader is thinking about what you MIGHT have meant and not what you want them to think about … your real message.

There are few things as annoying as reading writing that speakers down to you. When you think about WHO you are writing before you start, you can also start to think about the actual human beings on the receiving end, and not just about your ideas and the challenges of writing. This introduces some warmth and a personal feel into your writing… it makes it clear that what you have written is personal and intended for a specific person or group of people.

Writing that is seen as cold and impersonal most often does not have a clear idea of who it was written for.

We all react better to information that is tailored to our needs. While you cannot possibly always know the needs of every reader, mostly you have a pretty good idea where the person you are writing to or for is at. Write like you would if you were speaking to them, face to face.

Don’t let your readers feel like they are communicating with a machine. Think about Who you are writing to and tailor HOW you say WHAT you say accordingly.

David Chislett, senior trainer zakelijk Engels

(c) Taleninstituut Nederland