Writers: For Whom Are You Writing?

Writers can ply their trade for lots of audiences: academic, television, radio, Internet, young, old, domestic, or foreign.

The number of distinct audiences is staggering.

If you’re a business writer, just have a look at various sectors that are depicted in Standard Industrial Classification Codes (SIC’s). There have to be thousands of them, and each one constitutes at least one audience, and probably a lot more.

As writers, we have implicit audiences, as well.

Years ago, I heard that daily newspapers are written so an eight grader could understand their contents. That’s an implied audience, right there: the average eighth grader.

The President of The United States has a chief speechwriter, who in a very real sense has an audience of one: the Commander In Chief. If he fails to please his boss, he’s beating the bushes with a laptop, but his implied audience is huge, and it includes the collective unconscious of Americans dating back to the Revolution.

I saw a movie the other night about songwriter Cole Porter who made a successful transition writing for the New York stage to movies. In a memorable scene, he is told by a studio head to tone down his sophistication and instead to write for the average person.

That abstraction of the average moviegoer is another implied audience.

Of course, very often a creative writer is really communing with himself. He is his own audience and chief critic.

While he may be paid to craft a feature article for publication, his own standards of excellence or cleverness inform his work to such an extent that a higher self, the writer he wants to be, is the one who is screening and evaluating his output.