When authors want to write a compelling piece, they have to consider what they want to write, why they want to write it, and to whom they are writing. All of these elements impact how they will write. The “author’s audience” is to whom they are writing, and it’s a crucial key to understanding how and how effectively the author writes.
Examining the author’s audience is crucial because it offers insights into the author’s message and purpose. It can help you understand how and why the author chose certain words, metaphors, idioms, and turns of phrase. It also allows you better understand the meaning behind the writing; it helps you read between the lines.
Here, we’ll explore the “what,” “why,” and “how” of examining the author’s audience: we’ll look at the definition of the author’s audience, why it is crucial and impactful for the writing, and how we can analyze the author’s effectiveness based on their audience.
When Is It Important to Examine the Author’s Audience?
It is vital to examine the author’s audience when you want to determine the effectiveness of the writing. Understanding the author’s audience can help you decide whether the author was successful with their writing.
You consider your audience in your everyday communication, too! For example, imagine asking your friend for a favor. It’s nothing too big; you just need some help with something. What kind of words do you use? What questions do you ask?
Now, imagine you’re asking for that same favor from your teacher or professor. Your choice of words and tone of voice will probably change. Who you’re talking to changes the way you present your message, even though you’re asking for the same favor. Authors do this, too; they change how they write depending on who will read their work.
Examining the author’s audience can help you answer the question, “Did the author achieve their goal?”
What is the Author’s Audience?
“Author’s audience” doesn’t necessarily mean whoever is reading the work. Instead, the author’s audience refers to the people that the author expects or wants to read their work. It’s the group of people who are most likely to read the writing.
Remember, an audience is a group of individuals, a bunch of humans. This means the audience comes to the writing with their own experiences, worldviews, and opinions (source).
The profile of the audience – and all of the things they bring to their reading of the author’s work – contribute a lot to the effectiveness of the author’s writing.
The Author’s Purpose Helps Define the Author’s Audience
The author’s reason for writing often connects to their audience. You can answer the question, “Why is the author writing this?” and “Why is the author writing this way?” by answering, “To whom is the author writing?”
For instance, if the author wants to inform parents about trends among high school students, they will use everyday vocabulary and avoid new slang terms that the parents may not be familiar with.
They will leverage parents’ interest in their kids’ success and use examples and cultural references that are more relevant to a middle-aged parent’s experience.
On the other hand, if an author wants to write something convincing for high school students, they will use current slang and reference popular trends to build rapport with their audience. The author will choose words and examples that seem relatable and trustworthy. This way, they will write a more convincing piece.
Analyzing the Writing’s Effectiveness
When you analyze a piece of writing, your biggest goal is to answer the question, “Did the author achieve their goal or purpose?” This means you should have a clear idea of both the author’s purpose and audience before you can analyze the effectiveness of the writing.
Since the author’s purpose is closely connected to the audience, you need to understand the author’s audience before you can analyze the effectiveness of the writing (source). Essentially, did the author speak directly to their audience in a way that achieved their goals for writing?
On the most basic level, the piece must be understandable to the author’s audience if it’s going to be effective. But, more importantly, the writing should resonate intellectually or emotionally with the author’s audience to be more effective.
For more information about analyzing the author’s purpose and efficacy, check out our article When Should Teachers Introduce the Purpose of a Text?
How a Student Should Examine the Author’s Audience
As you examine the author’s audience, there are a few characteristics you should take into consideration. Throughout the process, it’s imperative to remember that examining the author’s audience does NOT mean simply defining it.
The key to examining the author’s audience is to show how the target audience is relevant to the author’s purpose and how the author’s words, examples, and turns of phrase contribute to their bigger purpose or goal for writing.
Define the Author’s Audience
Before examining the author’s audience, you must identify or define it. But how can you determine the author’s audience of a text? There are several questions to ask yourself to describe the author’s audience and explain exactly who is in the readership.
The first question to ask yourself is, “Who is most likely to read this?” For instance, is it geared toward younger people or older people? Did you find it online or in a newspaper? Or is it more appealing to people interested in a specific topic?
By answering these questions, start to refine your definition of the author’s audience. In most cases, an author will direct their work to a specific group of people. But, more than one demographic can often read and benefit from the author’s work, too.
For example, imagine you’re reading an article called “How to Make Awesome TikTok Videos.” Based on the topic alone, you can guess that the author is writing to a young(er) audience.
This audience is young enough to have grown up with smartphones and social media. As a result, young people are the ones who are much more likely to read this article to learn more about making TikTok videos, not elderly people.
At the same time, middle-aged people who like technology and want to follow tech trends might also read this article. Though they are a bit older, they have some expertise in smartphones and social media. So, even with these two different audiences, the author can use tech-related terms to appeal to their readers.
Some Questions for Defining the Author’s Audience
When defining the author’s audience, asking yourself a few questions is essential to ensure you are looking for the right thing.
The following are some great questions to ask yourself when defining the author’s audience (source). Of course, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it will help you better understand the type of person most likely to read, understand, and benefit from the author’s work.
What is the reader’s level of expertise on the topic?
A novice in the field will require very different explanations than an expert. Therefore, the author must consider the level of their target audience to write effectively. For instance, the author may have to define key terms or explain some fundamental concepts for a novice but not for an expert.
What are the shared opinions and/or experiences of the audience members?
If any – or even all – of the audience members share some important opinions and/or life experiences, the author can leverage this. When the audience is united on something, the author can more effectively speak “into” their shared experience.
For example, if the author is writing to people who live in the same small town, he or she can refer to local landmarks and community leaders without any confusion.
However, suppose the author is writing about a particular small town to a broader audience living all over the state. In that case, he or she will have to explain the small town’s people, places, and culture for the readers to understand the article clearly.
What does the reader expect to read about?
When readers pick up any writing, they bring their own expectations to the reading experience. Is the audience looking for a convincing and objective look at the topic, or do they want to read about ideas they already agree with? This can dramatically impact the words and tone of the author.
For instance, if you see an article about your favorite football team called “Why Our Football Team is the Best,” then you can expect to see flattering statistics and stories about your favorite team. This article aims to make fans feel good about the team.
On the other hand, if you’re reading a league-wide report about the statistics and achievements of every team, you can expect a more objective and balanced report. This article aims to give clear and precise information about the whole league.
For more about defining and meeting your own goals as a student, check out our article How to Set and Follow Through on Academic Goals; Examples for Success.
Are You on the Inside or the Outside?
Next, you should consider if you are on the inside or the outside of the author’s target audience. If you’re inside the author’s audience, you can offer insight from your own experiences within that defined group.
Or, if you’re outside of the author’s target audience, try to put yourself in the shoes of the author’s target audience. For example, let’s take the “How to Make Better TikTok Videos” article again:
You can start by reflecting on the topic in general: Do you have any personal experiences with TikTok? Do you know what makes a good TikTok video? Have you ever made videos for TikTok or any other social media platform?
Targeting where your own experiences overlap with the experiences of the author’s audience can help you pinpoint the needs and expectations of the author’s audience. It’s also a great way to bring a personal, empathetic outlook to your analysis.
Analyze the Audience’s Role in Shaping the Writing
Now it’s time to start analyzing! Whenever you examine or analyze any aspect of a text, you should keep one key question in mind: “So what?” Simply describing the author’s audience is not enough: you need to explain how this audience impacted or influenced the author’s work.
Why is the author’s audience so crucial to the text? The audience may influence how the author expresses a point. Or it can affect the author’s choice of words. It can also influence the metaphors, idioms, and turns of phrase that the author uses.
Try looking at the analysis from the other side: If the author had been writing to a different audience, would they have changed anything? Would they have used different words, idioms, or expressions?
When you examine the author’s audience from the other side, it can be easier to see how and why the audience impacted the author’s writing.
Examples of Examining the Author’s Audience
One of the easiest contexts in which you can examine the author’s audience is in advertisements. The author’s purpose is clear: they’re trying to convince you to buy something. However, the advertisement’s effectiveness hinges on who they are targeting with the ad.
For example, if an author is writing a television ad for a toy, they shouldn’t use big academic words and references to old music. But why not? Because their target audience is children: children are the ones who will ultimately want to buy the toy.
If the writer uses words or music that aren’t familiar to kids, they won’t be able to reach the purpose of their writing. They won’t be able to convince children (and their parents) to buy the toy. This is one way to see the importance of the author’s audience in action.
ELA: English Language Arts
English Language Arts (ELA) is a course that many late elementary, middle, and high school students take. It focuses on learning and applying the English language. However, it’s more than just an English language class because students usually learn about different styles of writing and communication as well.
So, ELA doesn’t just cover the grammar and vocabulary of the English language. Instead, it includes written arts, such as literature and poetry. So, you can expect to do a lot of reading and writing in an ELA class!
Different ages and grade levels focus on various aspects of ELA. For instance, younger students primarily focus on comprehension, while older and more advanced students practice analyzing texts on a deeper level. Examining the author’s audience to assess the effectiveness of the writing is one of these advanced ELA skills.
When an author writes, they think about their readers. They choose their words, metaphors, examples, and turns of phrase based on the expectations and experiences of their readers.
When you examine the author’s audience, you can see how and why they chose specific words and examples, and you can get a better idea of how effectively their writing meets its goals and purpose.