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Although it is sometimes easy to forget, we are always writing to an audience. Whether you are writing for a general group of readers, for a class of peers, or even just writing for yourself, there is an audience in mind, and it is important to recognize that audience in order to help make the best decisions when moving forward with your writing process. Each potential audience will require a different approach regarding what information to use in your paper, how to organize your ideas, and even what sort of language to use. After all, a paper you write for a class assignment, to be graded by your instructor, probably won’t resemble a letter you send to either a relative or best friend back home, will it?

This, of course, raises a common question: “isn’t my instructor my audience?” While it is important to keep the requirements of your instructor in mind, it can often be problematic to write without awareness of a larger potential audience. In writing only for the instructor, there is a danger of not sharing as much information or saying it as clearly as you should, due to a belief that the instructor already knows the requirements of the assignment, is aware of what you are trying to say, and will fill in the gaps. However, your instructor will almost certainly prefer if you treat them as an intelligent but uninformed audience, so as to make sure you clearly express and explain your main points, and therefore show your full understanding and knowledge of the topic.

Determining Your Audience

In many cases, if you look carefully over the assignment prompt provided by your instructor, you can find indications of the larger, broader audience you will want to concentrate on in your writing. For instance, consider the purpose of your paper, as this directly informs how the intended audience will approach your writing. Is it an informative essay, meant to teach your audience something? Are you trying to convince your audience of a particular position on an issue or debate? Are you simply trying to entertain? Each of these purposes comes with different audience expectations, which must be kept in mind during the writing process.

As the audience should factor into the invention stages of a project's development, it is important to ask the following questions before composing, in order to identify your audience and determine how to best address their needs and expectations.

· Who is your intended audience?

· Does your assignment prompt give any clues or indications about your audience?

· What does your audience need? What do they want?

· What level of information on the topic will my audience already be bringing to their reading?

· What is most important to your audience?

· What is your audience least likely to care about?

· What kind of organization would best help your audience understand and appreciate your?

· In what context will your audience be reading your writing?