Audience and Voice


Audience

 Noun: the people who see the work of a particular artist or read the work of a particular writer (1)

When writing, it is very important to use language that fits your audience and matches your purpose. Inappropriate language uses can damage your credibility, undermine your argument, or alienate your audience. Some of the major issues with appropriate language use:

  • Levels of Formality: Writing in a style that your audience expects and that fits your purpose is key to successful writing.
     For example: "It would be wise to get a second opinion." Formal
     Vs. "Y'all should ask somebody else." Informal
  • In-Group Jargon: Jargon refers to specialized language used by groups of like-minded individuals. Only use in-group jargon when you are writing for members of that group. You should never use jargon for a general audience without first explaining it.
     For example: Military jargon - "rack" which means "bed"
  • Slang and idiomatic expressions: Avoid using slang or idiomatic expressions in general academic writing.
     For example: "insane" meaning "mentally ill" but intended to mean "outrageous"
     Or, "it was a piece of cake" meaning it was "simple"
  • Deceitful language and Euphemisms: Avoid using euphemisms (words that veil the truth) and other deceitful language.
     For example: "collateral damage" for the unintended destruction of civilians and their property
     Or, "Between jobs" meaning "unemployed"
  • Biased language: Avoid using any biased language including language with a racial, ethnic, group, or gender bias or language that is stereotypical.(2)
     For Example: Just "Doctor" rather than "Woman Doctor" (which might be referring to a doctor for women)

Voice

The flip side of the idea of audience is that of voice (sometimes called tone, mood or style). Every writer has their own unique voice and the use of that voice is what makes their writing unique. It is important that the writer's thoughts and ideas clearly show through their use of language - their voice. The writer's voice comes from the choices made while writing: the words, the organization, which details to include and so on. All of the choices the writer makes reflect that writer's voice.

It is often important that the writer's voice is not buried within a research laden paper.

NOTE: Do not confuse this with the grammatical subjects of Passive vs. Active Voice. You can find clarification on that subject at Active Versus Passive Voice (Purdue Owl)

(1) Audience (noun) American English definition and synonyms (Macmillan Dictionary)
(2) Stereotypes and Biased Language (Purdue OWL)