Raise the Bar

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Are we all electrified when we write for an audience?

In Clive Thompson's Smarter Than You Think, this was certainly the case for Dorothy Burt's students who were not only "electrified" to be writing for an audience who wasn't required or paid to read their work, but more critical of their work and the work of others. When they received comments on their work, it sank in that another person was being affected by their writing - and this lit a spark. An audience to hold you to a higher standard causes you to hold yourself to a higher standard. An audience raises the bar.

I think it is impossible not to consider your audience in your writing (and/or designing), especially in today's digital world. Writing for an audience motivates you to do your best, to grab and keep the attention of your audience. It also guides your writing style, different audiences require different rhetoric. How you write for a research paper for your professor will not be how you write for a travel blog for your peers.


Personally, I'm guilty of tailoring my writing to please my audience. I chose to write a final paper last year about how I hated the show Girls and thought it was hindering the feminist movement. I love Girls. But, I knew my teacher would enjoy it so I bit the bullet. Though I felt a little guilty (sorry Lena), I received a 100% on the paper.


Sometimes adapting your writing to your audience can be beneficial. Just don't completely lose yourself in the process. Some of the best writing is the writing we do for ourselves.


kglasso's picture

great post!

Hey Lauren , great post! I love the show Girls as well so I really like how you incorporated them into your post!

ald_3's picture

Hi Lauren - I loved your post

Hi Lauren - I loved your post. That first image you included is awesome (I'm a nerd about Venn diagrams)! Your post reminded me a little of what Christine shared in hers about the ways we have to sacrifice our own standards and views in order to please a specific audience we are writing for. I think this happens a lot in an academic context, and sometimes it is a necessary evil to get a good grade on a paper! It's awesome that the internet provides us with so many avenues for public writing these days so that we can really share our own writing personality without many restrictions.

And, I'm a Girls fan too. I actually feel like I have a love/hate relationship with Lena Dunham. Maybe I love to hate her (or is it hate to love her...I can never decide). Thanks for sharing your great insights!

Gavin Oliver's picture

I'm glad you slipped in a few

I'm glad you slipped in a few words about how we shouldn't lose ourselves when contorting our writing to the appetite of an audience. Knowing an audience and their interests are important for luring them in, but at the same time, I think an audience respects a writer who shoots straight and doesn't mind what others think. I think it is important to find a good balance.

abbycothran's picture

Hey Lauren, I really liked

Hey Lauren, I really liked your post! I would love to read your paper about Girls hindering the feminist movement. I think that sounds interesting. I love the show and have never noticed any real anti-feminist sentiments so I would love to hear your perspective on it!

briana.993's picture

I really enjoyed your blog

I really enjoyed your blog post. So often I think aspiring writers hear about how you have to write for yourself, about yourself, or at the very least what you've experienced. It's the old write what you know cliché. I think you really sum up the balance that writers need to find between using their personal voice and boring the audience with irrelevant information.

Valerie Smith's picture

Hey Lauren,

Hey Lauren,
I really liked your post this week! I really liked how you discussed writing for yourself, and it inspires me to keep doing the same. Good job!

mkozma's picture

Hey Lauren

I agree with everyone up here.....your post was very true. And I think this is good advice that a lot of people need to abide by this. DO NOT WRITE FOR YOUR AUDIENCE ONLY. Write what YOU want to write!!!!!

I think a lot of people sometimes have this fear that people will hate what they produce (sometimes I'm guilty of this) and I definitely think that it's important to remember that writing is personal, and doesn't always have to be the majority's favorite. But at the same time, in order to be successful as a writer, you need to know what your audience wants to hear. And use that to your advantage.