Offending an Audience

You have learned now that your writing isn’t just for you and that part of your role as a writer is to keep the audience in mind when you write. Some students struggle with this because it may feel like they just can’t say what they want to say when they have to write with their audience in mind. You may feel the same and feel like you want to share your ideas the way you want to share your ideas, no matter what an audience thinks.

However, you have to remember that, unless you’re keeping a personal journal, your writing is always for someone else as well. In fact, most of the time, you’re going to need to be highly aware of your audience’s needs when you are writing for college—and for work. Moreover, when you’re writing argumentative essays on controversial topics, if you want to be persuasive, you have to think about what is going to work well to be persuasive for your given audience. Will your audience listen to you if you offend them? Probably not.

With that in mind, you’ll want to make good rhetorical decisions when you write. This means, you have to consider what language will work for your audience, what kind of evidence will be persuasive, and how you can present that evidence in the most convincing manner possible.

If you offend your audience, your audience members won’t listen to what you have to say. While you may not be able to always convince your audience to see your side of an issue, you should at least be able to get them to listen to you and consider your points.

In the video below, you’ll see what happens when audience members are offended and what their reactions are and why. Seeing what happens for yourself may help you remember that, when you’re writing an argument, you are writing for someone else.

Video Transcript
Offended Individual #1

When I read something that’s disrespectful or offensive, even if it’s not disrespectful or offensive to me personally, and I know its offensive to another group of people, it’s really hard to keep reading. I do feel personally offended, and I guess I think that if the author didn’t take enough time to get to know or be thoughtful of his or her audience, it’s hard for me to want to spend the time reading and hearing what he or she has to say.

Offended Individual #2

Coming from a journalism background where it is taught that being objective is fundamental to news reporting, I find that any lack of objectivity or obvious bias by the author is personally offensive to me as a reader. In this case, the author starts to lose credibility, and I start to question not only if they have an ulterior motive but what that ulterior motive may be. Overall, I value the story much less than if it’s more evident the author tried to be objective.

Offended Individual #3

When I read a piece of writing that is offensive, I hesitate a bit and I wonder what might be behind it. During this hesitation, I start to ask myself questions about the writer’s credibility, even if the information isn’t personally offensive, I could see how it might be offensive to others and it makes me wonder about the writer’s character. A writer’s tone can also be offensive, and it will also make me question credibility.

Offended Individual #4

When I read something that is offensive, I generally assume that the author doesn’t know what he or she is talking about. That’s why they’ve chosen to take an offensive approach to evoke an emotional reaction, rather than having a sound argument backed up by evidence, and, so, I usually just disregard it.

Offended Individual #5

When I read something that’s offensive, one of two things happens. If it’s very overt, like profanity or bigotry, I just stop reading. If it’s less so, I look much more critically at their sources, because, chances are, they haven’t used valid sources to prove their argument.

Offended Individual #6

I like to see passion in writing, and I think writers can achieve a lot with passionate writing. But when writing gets offensive, or it feels like I’m being yelled at, then I get turned off pretty quickly. I feel like more can be achieved without having to yell at the reader, and I think that you can achieve that with a strong, but firm, voice. No one wants to be yelled at.

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