Who Do You Write For–Yourself or Your Reader?

When I ask my students the question about who they write for, themselves or their reader, they often get the deer-in-the-headlight look as if it’s a trick question. It isn’t. It’s a real question.

If you write for yourself, why not just journal? If you write for your reader, you’ve got a few things to think about besides yourself.

For example, who is your reader? Think beyond age and gender. Think education, think profession, think relationships, think whole person. Of course you’ll have many readers and no two will be exactly the same, but they will have things in common, so try to visualize the commonalities.

After you’ve acquainted yourself  with your reader, begin to ask questions about what the reader already knows about your topic (this includes both fiction and nonfiction writing, by the way). Then give some consideration to what your reader wants to know and see how you can rectify what you’re offering with what they’re wanting.

Some writers find it a bit intimidating to think about their readers. I’m not sure if that’s a security thing (as in, am I good enough to write this?) or what, but if that’s an issue for you, let it go. It’s getting in the way of your writing.

As I used to tell my managerial communication students in graduate school, “Your audience wants you to succeed. They really are pulling for you. If you’ve ever seen a speaker flounder or if you’ve ever  read a bad piece of writing, you know how painful it is to be on the receiving end. Thus, be assured, your audience wants you to succeed in your communication with them.”

Take some pressure off yourself and you will improve your writing. Your reader will be glad you did and you will too. Remember, writing is a one-on-one with the reader–except you’re not getting the feedback you would if you were face-to-face. Thus, you have to anticipate whatever questions the reader would ask and answer them. Does your reader want you to succeed? Absolutely! And you will, if you keep working.

Happy writing!

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1 Response to “Who Do You Write For–Yourself or Your Reader?”


  1. 1 Cassandra Jade November 30, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Good question. You always need to consider purpose for writing and audience, preferrably before beginning but at least during the editing stages. Thanks for an excellent post.


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