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Consider the wide range of fields where writing happens. Depending on the field, pieces of writing vary not only in content, but in style and purpose. Most writers already know this, but not everyone considers that this condition exists largely because of audience.
When we enter their earliest rhetoric and composition classes in freshman year, most of us come from a high school writing background in which we’ve been trained to focus entirely on what we say rather than who we say it to. The first time we are asked who we’re addressing in our work, most of us become confused. Well, we’re writing to the teacher, aren’t we? We soon learn that the answer is not so simple.
In reality, yes, more than likely, the only person who will read our writing is the professor and perhaps some of our classmates. However, we must remember that with every assignment, we as students and writers have a goal. Likely, our assignment will intend for us to write with an intended audience in mind—an individual, organization, or group of people that we imagine would be receiving our work.
This intended audience serves a key purpose in how we write. Firstly, audience determines how we approach the topic at hand. If we must bring up a controversial subject, would our audience be better persuaded if we were direct and decisive or if we were gentle and diplomatic? If our work concerns a technical subject, would our audience understand specialized terminology or would we need to explain certain concepts and words?