Friday, February 19, 2010

Picture the Person You’re Writing For

You've decided to write an article or even a book for, say, medical assisting students. Before you put even one finger on the keyboard, before you even open Word, picture in your mind your specific market.

I don't mean you should picture MA students in some abstract way. I mean to picture a single, specific MA student, perhaps one you've known, who possesses attributes typical of an MA student.The importance of writing for a specific market is well known, but when you actually sit down to write, you need an even clearer idea of who you're writing for. I've written a lot for teenagers, and when I'm writing for them, I imagine a specific person.

For an article I wrote on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among teens, I pictured a girl about 15 years old, sitting at her desk in school, listening to a teacher talking about STDs. Every now and then she would turn to a classmate to her right (don't ask me why, but she always turned to her right) and giggle about something in the article she was reading.

Why a 15-year-old girl? The age range of readers of that particular article was going to be 12- to 14-year-old students in a health class. Female because I thought that STDs were going to be somewhat more interesting to girls than boys, though both needed to understand them. But I like to picture just one person rather than two, so I went with a girl. Giggling now and then because most kids that age, though they possess some level of maturity, are mostly just kids who giggle to alleviate some of the discomfort sensitive topics tend to bring about.

Do the same thing when you write.

Picture someone with specific qualities like that too, qualities you would find in your "typical" reader, and you'll find that your writing will speak more directly to the market you want to reach.