Deeper Review: Read it as the Intended Audience
This one is you get to be your reader. A writer is nothing without a reader and a reader is nothing without a writer. You gotta step into the point of view of who you're writing. There's often times where I will write something and I'll fee it's absolutely perfect. The phrase was dynamite, I love that word. I probably used ergo, because that's one of my favorite words. (audience laughs quietly) and I'll be like ah, perfect. And then I'll take a second and I'll step into my reader's perspective and I won't be as jazzed. It won't be just right, I might have left something out, I might have been writing for me and not for them. And this puts you in their eyes, get in their position, get in their mindset, get in their point of view. Don't think about what you want to say, think about what they want to hear. You have something to say which is why you're writing, but you have someone to say it to and you have someone you're speaking to. Maybe it's a fantasy reader, maybe it's a doctoral stud...
ent. You're writing to someone. So always take the time to step back and get their perspective on what you think their reaction to the piece would be. So I actually have an example of this. I once got an email for a quote from an editing services and they asked for three things, am I available, can I work for the rate requested, and if I had experience with that type of project. And this was a dynamite project, I was like yes, I'm available, I can do it for that rate and here's why you should hire me. And then I also went into other reasons about I can do this and X, Y and Z, and I'm exited and here's my experience. And I sent it and I was so excited and then there was no reply. And I was baffled. I was like why would they not respond to me? So for my point of view, I answered their questions, I explained my value very clearly and I shared my enthusiasm. And then I thought about it and I was like so they probably contacted someone other than me. They might have sent out dozens of these emails. They might have plenty of these that they're going through. So from their point of view, maybe the information they needed was varied. How far did they have to read through my email to see yes I've done this work before? They probably already knew a lot of this information from my website, I have a professional website. It lists my skills. They probably checked and saw yeah, she's done this before, I'll email her. And they might have felt like I was wasting their time 'cause their time is valuable. And thinking about it, I was like I probably could have done this better. I had been focused on me and on my needs and on what I wanted to say. So, another email comes in asking about my services. I wrote considering their time. I wrote considering meeting their needs and giving them only what they needed. And this is very specific for business writing, but it's just as applicable to anything else. So if you're writing a piece for a personal fiction or for a novel, there's gonna be pieces that reach out to people and what do they need to hear? What are they wanting to hear? Now this becomes more difficult when we do get into these longer, more detailed works. If you have a full argumentative essay or a novel, it's hard, you need to take more time and more effort to step back and create that distance. And it's much easier to fall back in the writer mindset. So just take a second. Picture your intended reader. What are they doing? What is their day like? What are they going to be approaching your writing with in terms of their attitude? I would suggest everyone just really quickly call to mind a piece of writing you've worked on. And it could be anything. It could be a short story, a poem, a book, a piece of any length on any subject then for any audience. So just think about it. What's part of that writing that you really loved? Maybe a line that you thought was just perfect or a fact that you found really, really interesting. And just marinate with it for a second. Now picture your reader. How do they feel about that fact? I got overly excited, I edited a piece about tires and I learned that the tire has a piece in it called the carcass. And I was like this is the coolest thing I've read like ever, my tire has a carcass? What? (audience laughs) And I got so caught up in that and this thing I found exciting, take a second to be like no, no, no. What do we need to be focusing on? What's the reader looking for? If you're setting up something, are you delivering on it? What do you learn about your work when you try and picture it from their point of view? And this is a great exercise for any piece of writing, no matter how small. If it's an email or if it's a book. It's something that no matter what the piece is, it'll be applicable in helping you feel if you've met your goal and engaged your reader. If you've got a review from previous works that say they just weren't engaging with it, this will help. This'll help you figure out how to reach the readers that you're trying to reach. Yes.
Alright, I have a few questions that have come in from folks online.
So we were talking about earlier reading your work out loud or having the computer read it out loud to listen to it and now we're talking about reading it as the intended audience. So the question is do you recommend reading it out loud to another person as part of that editing process and even better if that person was part of your intended audience?
Yes. So if you have a willing participant, absolutely sit them down and read aloud to them. Not only do you get the benefit of hearing and doing that proof reading check, you get physical reactions. If you thought something was really funny and they're just dead pan, like what happened? Did you not hear me? You're like no, you just gotta go back and revise it. And if you have someone from your intended audience you can physically read to as well, that's even more beneficial. I was part of a writing critique group once where we did that, we would read small sections just like a first page or two aloud to each other. And it was extremely illuminating. If you have this line that you think is so heartfelt and emotional and everyone just gets quiet while you're reading and they're really serious and living in that moment, you've done a killer job and it feels good to see people react the way you wrote for them to react. If they're responding to your writing the way you want them to respond, you'll see it with a physical person in a way you won't see in other reviews. I highly recommend it.
Cool. I have another question coming from this concept of having an international audience. So this is from Kelly Rose and her specific question is she was raised in the US, but one of the countries she now lives in favors UK English she's using the O-U in the word favor, (laughter) she says so I have picked up different habits on punctuation, spelling and diction that make only utilizing the US version feel very strange, yet she's unfamiliar with a lot of the UK variations and her audience would likely include readers from both approaches to English. So in that sort of global sense, what would your advice be?
So first focus on who you are and who your readership is. If you live in America, people are more likely to expect they're gonna get American English and American spelling. If you live in the UK, you're gonna expect UK English, UK spelling and so on. Now if your readership, same thing. If you're pitching it world-wide, Americanized English is the predominantly used English. So you'll have a wider readership with it, but people who do read British and Canadian Englishes are very attached to those. So if you wanna court that audience, write to their English and their punctuation. If you're a bit of a mix, you just have to pick one. If you'd rather work in British English, absolutely. It's gonna be fantastically received everywhere, but you just have to pick whichever one you're most comfortable with.
Is reading British to the Brits as charming as it is to us? (laughter) Whenever I see that O-U or the S instead of a Z.
I know, like you have all these extra letters you could have make so many other words. (laughter) But I'm American, so. And some people don't care. Some people read both and it's not that big of a deal. Some people are very sensitive to it. So depending on the type of reader it is, they'll either react very strongly like me, I put my book down, my periods go on the other side of the quotation marks thank you very much. And other people it's not a big deal at all, they're there for the story. And just spelling favor with an O-U and using I-S-E instead of I-Z-E are small things. So some readers will have very serious feelings, but some won't.
Okay, so I do have one more question from Jenny V., who says how important are accurate facts when it comes to fiction? What amount of creative license is acceptable?
So I've actually had a number of good discussions with this with other editors. Places are one of the biggest points of debate. If someone writes about Boston, like they have been to Boston, I'm gonna know. I will be like you have never ridden this T-system, what are you doing? This stop isn't there. So you have to provide enough factual realism that it's not gonna jar people and it's just not gonna be untrue. Like there's not a Braintree stop on the orange line, that's just not how it works. But you are allowed a little bit of creative license to capture the feel of a place. So as a writer, you're trying to transport your reader there. And if what's most important is the fact that the rain puddle's really deep, because the sidewalk is really high and you've captured that, it's less important the fact that the bus sign is the wrong symbol. So focus on the details that people will know are wrong. They're gonna be able to pull the map of the place and see these two streets don't intersect, which editors do by the way, your editor will Google Map everything you put down, it's gonna be a problem. You have to make sure that if you're talking about a place, you're using facts like that they're accurate. But if you're talking about smaller things like you put a fake coffee shop in, okay. They're living there, it's in a place that's maybe not something else that's already a defined landmark. Like if someone tries to put a landmark in here that's not the original Starbucks in that location, everyone's gonna know. Like no, no, no, no, Starbucks is there. You have to know which areas are real and true to life and just can't be moved and which ones are impressions that you can play with a little bit. If a writer takes me to a place and I feel like I'm there, it matters more to me than if they have correctly drawn everything out and put it on the map.
Before you share your writing with anyone, whether it be an editor, a business associate, a client or a reader, you need to make sure it’s tight, clean and error-free. That’s why it’s critical for all writers to learn how to proofread their own work.
Detecting the flaws and mistakes in your writing is difficult because you’ve grown so familiar with it. This class will teach you the tips and tricks you need to come at it with fresh eyes. Heather Saunders, an experienced writer, editor and proofreader, will provide hands-on advice on how to go about the proofing process as well as the common errors to look out for.
In this class, you’ll learn how to:
- Approach the text in new ways by removing distractions, reading it aloud, changing the appearance of the document, and taking a break when needed.
- Read your work from the perspective of your intended audience.
- Fact-check your writing.
- Figure out if the piece accomplishes its purpose.
- Identify habitual errors, such as weak words, excessive use of adjectives and adverbs, and punctuation issues.