Public Speaking Through Writing

Guest Blogger Miranda Romano ’16

Miranda RomanoWithout an audience, writing becomes a frivolous task. This is true for every work; even personal writing has a specific audience.  To be successful in any type of writing, identifying the proper audience can make or break a piece of writing.

According to Ede and Lunsford

In their article “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy,” Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford describe two different audiences that are often specified in writing. These categories are “audience invoked” and “audience addressed.” The first describes the audience as a creation of the writer. The audience is someone that the writer has imagined for the purpose of creating the piece of writing. The latter defines the audience as a concrete individual or group and emphasizes the possibility and importance of understanding that audience. Respectively, one stresses the importance of the writer and the other stresses the individual(s) being addressed.

Real Life Considerations

Ede and Lunsford’s theory is one I saw utilized daily in the office where I interned. The audience we write for is real; I see them walk through the door daily. Because of this, I believe that we write for an audience addressed rather than an audience invoked.

When writing, the office does not encourage the audience to take on any particular role and we address them very specifically as what we understand them to be. For example, when we write to veterans, we know they are former military and we address them accordingly: using military lingo and expecting them to react a specific way to certain information regarding defense and military action. We expect that they will understand the military lingo and read our work as someone experienced in military tactics. We can assume all of these things because we have done our research on an existing audience and know how they will react. In the same way, we would not write to a non-veteran constituent and assume that they would take on a veteran’s view and read our work that way. We are very careful about who we write to and how they will perceive our language.

Like audience addressed, we try to inform ourselves as much as possible about our audience before we create documents for them. In this way we do not visualize an audience, especially not a “fictional” one. We usually know, down to the person, or at least organization, who we are addressing. At other times, we address a mass audience, but the work often pertains to a specific topic and we know the audience’s stance. Because of these things, there really is no need for us to invoke an audience.

In addition, as Ede and Lunsford describe, we definitely rely on past experience with the audience and this information is passed through the office so that everyone understands the audience. We interact regularly with constituents, through town hall meetings, phone calls, field representative visits, and meetings with staffers. These interactions allow us to observe our audience to better understand them and serve them.

Another important aspect of Ede and Lunsford’s definition is the use of intervention in the creation of a piece of writing.  Intervention has definitely been a part of my work the past few months, since I have to get everything I write approved before it is shared. Writing becomes a collaborative effort with the goal being to inform the constituents over giving credit to one writer.

Relevance to My Life

Since entering the Professional Writing and Rhetoric field, I’ve realized that I hardly ever write for myself. I am constantly aware of a client’s needs and discovering new ways to communicate with diverse audiences. It is no different in the Congressman’s office. The constituents are the top priority in everything we do and they are a very real, understandable audience. My experience in the Congressman’s office has taught me so much about how important it is to really understand the audience before writing a single word. If I don’t understand my audience well enough, my work could be misconstrued or ineffective. The goal of my internship in this office was to become a more experienced and effective writer, and this goal was something I could not possibly have done without first observing and understanding my, and the office’s, audience.


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One Comment

  1. Posted September 23, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    I really appreciate this reflection on the role of the audience and the effect on the writer. When Miranda wrote that she feels like she hardly ever writes for herself ever since entering in the Professional Writing & Rhetoric field, I found myself smiling. This statement could not be any truer. The audience should always be the focus of our writing, but it is certainly a different experience to have an audience being those with whom you interact in a professional setting.

    As Miranda reflected on Ede and Lunsford’s point, past experiences with audiences do affect the understanding of the audience and the subsequent writing for the audience. In my internship, I have found my language shifting as I become more aware of who is reading my writing. Because I interact with community members in a variety of professions and need to write in a way that appeals to all of them, I find myself constantly altering the way I write. As audience awareness increases, writing changes—it has to.

    Miranda also mentions how writing is different because she has to get her writing approved before it’s shared, a process Ede and Lunsford apparently describe as intervention. In my internship, I have really learned how everything I write is collaborative, even when my supervisor only looks at a piece of writing for a few seconds before telling me I have the go ahead to send it. My writing must always pass through the eyes of another, so my “audience” expands to include both my supervisor and the end audience.