The writing you do as a student at Mercer will have a variety of different audiences. Sometimes you will write for a diverse general audience, while other times you will write for a specific audience with common experiences and interests. Occasionally, when composing journal entries or “freewriting” in class, you will write for yourself. The contents and style of your writing will change depending on your audience.
To write a clear, interesting, and convincing paper, you should think about what level of knowledge the reader has about the subject and what expectations they bring to the text. Consider the following:
- What do my readers know about the subject?
- What information do I need to provide my readers so they understand the subject in the way that I do?
- What is important to my readers? Why would they care about the subject?
- Why should my reader trust what I write? How can I appear credible?
- What does my reader expect in terms of form and style?
Writing for your professor
Although most writing you do at Mercer will be for a grade in a specific class, your audience is never simply your professor. It is important to keep the parameters of the assignment and your professor’s expectations in mind, but if you think of your professor as your only reader, it is easy to assume the professor “knows what you mean.” As a result, you might not include enough information for any reader to follow your ideas. In many classes, your peers will read your papers and offer feedback, so it is helpful to think of your classmates as your audience as well.
Determining your audience
Certain assignments may ask you to write for a particular audience, real or imagined: if you write an editorial, you aim to convince the general public of your point of view (unless you write an editorial in the Cluster, in which case you direct your writing to the students, faculty, and staff that make up the Mercer community). If you write an analysis of Hamlet, you write for others familiar with the play who would like to gain a deeper understanding of it. If you write a lab report, you write for a community of scientists who wish to know the findings of your experiment and whether those findings are legitimate. If you are unsure who the audience of your writing assignment is, ask your professor for more information about the audience of this text.