When getting started on a manuscript, it’s important to realize that you are writing for an audience. While you will not personally know each person who reads your work, there are some steps you can take to help ensure you communicate more effectively than not.
Who Is Your Primary Audience?
When writing for an academic journal, you will often find that each journal has a primary and a secondary audience. For example, when I write for journals that are intended to be read by teachers, I also understand that my work may be read by educational researchers. However, teachers are the primary (and intended) audience of the journal. Therefore, I make sure I write my piece with them in mind.
What Does Your Audience Need to Know?
This next step is tricky. Identifying an audience is relatively easy. But now you must craft your piece through their eyes. Each time you revise, you have to consider such things as:
- what information do my readers require in order to understand my message?
- have I over explained something or provided more details than are necessary?
- what might confuse my readers?
You know your work inside and out. When we know something so well, it’s easy to think we are communicating it well. After all, it makes sense to us! You have to write, read, and revise with an outside mindset. Even if you are a member of the primary audience for a journal, your readers are still not as familiar with your work as you are. Think about what terms need to be defined. Consider if you are using too much jargon. Look for places where you have left out information about what you did and how you did it that people need.
Each time you revise your piece, read it with an eye as an outsider. You will keep finding ways to clean it up and make it stronger if you do this. Check out the video below to see an example of how to revise with an outsider mindset:
What Is Confusing?
Often we think we are being clear when we are not. Because our writing makes sense to us, we assume that it makes sense to everyone (or we assume the reader is at fault if they fail to comprehend our message). Whenever there is a comprehension breakdown, it is usually the fault of the writer. The only exception to this is when readers skim over text or don’t read carefully enough to get the information they need. When this happens, you should be able to direct their attention to where the information they missed is located and it will all be cleared up.
But that aside….when someone fails to comprehend any of your writing see it as your responsibility to correct it. Find a better way to communicate it. Take the comment seriously even if you are sure that your piece is 100% awesome (we all know it is). Rather than dismiss the critique, see it as an opportunity to help your writing reach even more people. This will help you be successful at connecting with your audience.
See the full playlist of academic writing tips.