Experts agree you should write to a single audience. I say you should write to a single person at a time. That’s why you’ll never see wording like this in what I write: “Many of you…” “But, folks…” “Ladies and gentlemen…”
No, rather, I’m writing just to you. There may be many people who can be addressed as “you,” but that is relevant only to me, not to you. So, rather than writing, “Some of you are parents…” I write, “You may be a parent…” because I’m not talking to anyone but you.
Visualize your audience
When I write a magazine column to readers roughly my mother’s age and sharing her values, I imagine writing to her, though she passed more than a year ago.
When I write sports biographies, I write to people just like me: somewhat knowledgeable, rabid fans. So I imagine writing to myself, writing what I would want to read.
When I write on spiritual themes to a general audience, I take that audience into consideration too. That doesn’t mean I am condescending or judgmental. It means I imagine a friend or loved one I respect and admire, but whom I know disagrees with me on the issues.
Know where your audience is coming from, imagine someone you know or know of who fits in that audience, and pretend you’re writing to that person alone. When I find myself in territory I know is sensitive and has been the subject of criticism, skepticism, or even ridicule, it’s vital that I let the reader know that I know. I might even write, “I’m not stupid; I know how this sounds. But hear me out.”
Force yourself to write to one person at a time. It’ll change how you word things. And you’ll find it brings more power to each word.
Jerry B. Jenkins is the author of more than 175 books, with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series. His latest novel is The Betrayal, the second book in the Precinct 11 series. Look for As Good As She Imagined, the story of Christina-Taylor Green, in January. Visit him online.