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How to Determine if Your Essay Addresses its Audience

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  • 0:01 Determine Your Audience
  • 1:57 Informal Essays
  • 4:25 Formal Essays
  • 6:17 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

You have written an essay, but are unsure if it is appropriate for your audience. Watch this video lesson to learn how to identify your audience and verify that your essay addresses the correct audience.

Determine Your Audience

What is an audience? Why is it important to know your audience before you write? The audience is simply the group or person who will be reading the essay. You should always keep your audience in mind when you are writing an essay. For example, how would you write an essay on brain function during a nightmare that was going to be published in a scientific journal? To be effective, you should use complex statistics and vocabulary that only fellow scientists would understand.

Now imagine you are writing an essay on what the brain does during nightmares that will be given to elementary students. In this case, you will definitely not include complex vocabulary or scientific terms. Instead, you would simplify the concepts and explain it in a way an elementary student would understand. This is the importance of audience. Writing for experts in a field is completely different than writing for someone who has never even heard of the topic before.

Now that you see how important your audience is to your writing, there are two basic types of writings that depend on the audience: informal, which is more casual or natural, and formal, which follows precise rules and conventions. If your audience is a friend, family member or someone you know well, then an informal tone is appropriate. An example of an informal essay would be one describing the worst nightmare you had ever had. On the other hand, if your audience is a teacher, professor or academic publication, then a more formal tone is appropriate. For this case, an essay on how the brain works and what it does during sleep and dreaming would be more appropriate.

If you don't know if you should write formally or informally, think about who will be reading this essay. Is it designed to appeal to your friends and people who know you well? Or is it for a teacher or professor who will be looking for an academic tone?

Informal Essays

If you decided your essay is informal, there are some guidelines that will help you address your audience. First, you must keep your purpose in mind. Usually, the purpose for an informal writing is to express a thought or feeling. You are not trying to teach or enlighten your reader; instead, you are trying to express yourself. Also, in this type of essay, your topic is most likely something very personal. In the previous example, writing about your worst nightmare is a very personal topic. It involves you expressing a story as if you were in the story. In this case, include your fear or anxiety and describe how you jumped out of bed sweating and yelling. Check your informal essay for those personal views and feelings in order to support your main idea.

Also, in informal essays, you can use personal pronouns, which are I, me and my. Usually, informal essays are written in first person point of view, which means the speaker is a part of the story. The essay will likely be told from your perspective as the writer and narrator. It makes sense to then use a language that keeps you inside the story. For example, a formal essay might state, 'A nightmare of that intensity brings on fear and anxiety in the dreamer'. This is a very objective point of view. For an informal essay, instead write, 'My nightmare was so intense, I feared getting back into bed'. This statement better expresses the personal feeling of fear and uses personal pronouns to keep you, as the narrator, in the story.

Last, for informal essays, you should use everyday language, which is how you normally speak. You don't need to pack your essay with academic vocabulary. Along with this looser use of language is a looser adherence to format. The rigid guidelines for structure, which include an introductory paragraph, followed by body paragraphs and ending with a concluding paragraph, are not necessary. You are able to use a more natural flow in informal essays. You may not need to have a whole paragraph to introduce your topic. A sentence or two might suffice. In addition, your other paragraphs might follow a looser order. Overall, you are free to choose the structure to suit your purpose. If you use personal pronouns to express your thoughts and feelings with a free flowing essay, then your informal audience will appreciate your views and expressions.

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