To write or not to write for an audience—this is a topic William Zinsser discusses in Chapter 5 of his book On Writing Well. In it, Zinsser affirms that writers should always write for themselves. He says, “don’t try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience—every reader is a different person.” I agree that every reader is unique, and will each have their own interpretations of what they read. But, I also believe consideration for the audience is critical in some instances. In the professional world, there are many examples of writing that must consider its audience.
Product descriptions, for example, exist to inform and describe. If you are shopping online, a product description should paint a clear and accurate picture of an item. Suppose a writer does not write for the audience’s needs and expectations. In that case, it could result in a higher number of returns, poor user experiences, and a lack of trust for the business—transparency and clarity matter more than the writer’s creative interpretation or personal style.
Brand messaging is another instance when the writer should consider the brand voice and the audience. If brand visuals or copywriting don’t feel authentic to the brand, it can confuse the audience and result in a loss of brand integrity. Brand voice guidelines can help writers avoid crafting messages for themselves instead of the audience.
Despite the need to write for an audience, there is still plenty of room to create for yourself within the given constraints. I’ve been told never to present a brand identity direction to a client that I can’t live with, and the same goes for writing. The writing style is only half of the equation. The other half is your expertise and craft—which is ever-present in everything you do. By applying your craft to your work—no matter the style—you can elevate the final result. Sometimes constraints are useful. Their challenge can lead to some of your most thoughtful and respected work.