Writing Without an Audience in Mind

Write without keeping your audience in mind, and you will alienate readers right away. Writing requires that you exhibit “soft skill,” which is a combination of skills related to communication style, understanding of language and conventions, personal habits and social adeptness. Disregard these skills, and your audience will know you are churlish.

The U.S. Department of Labor considers soft skill application so critical enough for workplace success that they have produced a curriculum called “Soft Skills to Pay the Bills—Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success.” The learning activities focus on six soft skills: communication, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, networking, problem solving and critical thinking, and professionalism. However, one of the most important skills professionals need today is the ability to communicate clearly, effectively and professionally with readers. Anything less is rude.

My homeowners’ association wins the Broad Nib Creek Studio Fatal Flaw in Writing Prize of the Year (2014) for their attempt at either humor or self-aggrandizement.

Where I live, burning brush is a big deal. It seems there’s always a considerable amount to clear, and the easiest way to take care of the piles of it is to burn it. But naturally there are plenty of rules around the burning of brush, as there should be. Physical and property safety are priorities, and it’s the landowner’s responsibility to ensure that surrounding landowners and their property are also safe.

Before I can even think about lighting a brush pile, I have to consider whether or not there is a burn ban, the time of day,  wind and temperature, location of the burn, additional water sources for emergency flare-ups, and whether I can be near the fire from first flame to last ember. The property-owner’s manual also informs me this regarding outdoor burning: “Burning shall not be conducted during periods of actual predicted low-level atmospheric temperature inversions.”

Really? Convolution makes for a poor writing strategy and even poorer communication, particularly when writing about safety expectations. There is a time and a place for wit, and the manual isn’t a good place for wit, especially if that is the one and only attempt at it. I know; I had time to read the whole thing while keeping the burn pile in sight and mind.

Writers should do the same for their readers: keep good communication in sight and mind.