Determining an Audience for your Essay

What is an Audience?

An audience is anyone who will read your essay. A target audience is the person or group of people you’d like to read your essay.

Why do I Need to Determine an Audience for my Essay?

You might think to yourself, “Only my parents will read this,” or “My teacher will be the only one who ever looks at this.” Why should you care about identifying an audience? Whether or not you’ve consciously thought about it, you’ve always been speaking and writing for a specific group of people.

Think about this: would you talk the same way in an interview as you would in a text message? Do you speak to your teachers differently from how you’d talk to your siblings? Are you going to speak differently when giving a public speech from just chatting with a neighbor? Chances are, the answer is “yes.” But, what’s the difference?

It’s the audience. Who you’re speaking to matters, as well as when you’re writing. However, not every piece of writing can be written for everyone. By nailing down a target audience, you can figure out what kind of purpose, format, and tone would be most appropriate.

Audience: Once Upon a Time...

Where Should I Start?

To narrow down your target audience, use the following questions to help you out:


Is this writing for…

  • … young children?
  • … peers?
  • … adults?
  • … males?
  • … females?

Am I creating an argument…

  • … for or against something?
  • … on the same side as my audience?
  • … on the opposing side of my audience?

Is this writing for…

  • … friends and family?
  • … experts?
  • … a person with authority?
  • … someone with no knowledge of the topic?

Do I need to start with an introduction?

  • Could I start with a personal story?
  • Does my opening need to be more formal?
  • Should my text be in first-person or third-person point of view?

What do my targeted readers have in common?

  • Do they have any common interests?
  • What political, social, or religious backgrounds might affect how they perceive my writing?
  • Do they have similar backgrounds?
  • What does my audience know of technical terms I plan to use?
  • Will the audience need explanation or definitions in order to understand my writing?

What kind of format should I use?

  • Essay?
  • Article?
  • Report?
  • Journal?
  • Letter?
  • Email?

Does my writing need…Audience: "Write Like it Matters and It Will."

  • a table of contents?
  • a references page?
  • a title page?
  • page numbers?
  • headings?
  • graphs, charts, or illustrations?

Is this writing for a grade?

  • Have I reviewed the rubric to ensure I know the requirements?
  • Do I completely understand the prompt? Or do I need clarifications on anything?
  • Are any phrases or words too conversational for an academic tone?

Can I have More than One Audience?

It’s completely possible to have more than one audience for the same piece of writing. As you identify them, keep a running list. That way, they are always in front of you as write.

The Finished Product

Once you’ve finished your essay, you may worry that it’s not tailored perfectly for your audience. To check, reread your essay as a reader, not a writer. That way, you can get a little better insight into how effective your essay is. But, how can you read something as someone other than yourself, though?

  1. Try taking a break. By getting some space and time between you and your essay, you can come back to it with a fresh eye for things.
  2. Create a reverse outline. To start, look over your essay, and create an outline based on what you’ve written. Next, ask yourself if the pieces of your essay give the message you were hoping for and if everything is in a logical order.
  3. Read it out loud. That’s right! Don’t be afraid to sound foolish. Reading your essay out loud will let you hear all those awkward phrases, incomplete thoughts, and places where the word choice just isn’t right.

These techniques can help you craft your essay and writing style perfectly to just about any audience you can think of. Think about it this way: the more work you do, the less your audience will have to. That means you’ll have one happy professor on your hands!




Written by Stephanie Constantino

Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.