Argument & Audience

A man speaking at a conferenceIn The Writing Process area of the Excelsior OWL, you can learn about the importance of audience awareness to your writing in general. But, when it comes to making a convincing argument, audience awareness is going to be more important than ever before.

In argument, perhaps more than any other genre, you have to be completely aware of and writing for your target audience. After all, the reason you’re writing at all is to convince your audience of something.

This section of the Excelsior OWL will explore the different ways in which you can be convincing to an audience. After all, different audiences require different approaches. The most important thing for you to begin to understand now is that argumentative writing is all about your audience, which means you’ll need to spend some time getting to know your audience.

This doesn’t mean you have to hang out with the people for whom you are writing. That may not be possible. It does mean you need to do some thinking and possibly some researching about who your audience is, what that audience knows about your topic or issue, and what biases or opinions that audience may already have. A good place to start is the web. Search for your topic or issue and then your audience. What can you find out?

Let’s look at an example. Let’s say you have decided to write about reducing the costs of textbooks at your college. You first have to decide who you need to convince. Since most of your fellow college students would agree with you on an issue like this, if you’re going to make a difference, you would need to target a different audience—perhaps college administrators. A good first step would be to head to the web to see what college administrators think about this issue. Then, as a second step, if you could interview a college administrator on your campus, you would have even more information.

The video on the next page will show you how you might go about trying to understand that audience and the things you would need to keep in mind as you write.

Grumble... Applaud... Please give us your feedback!