Bargain-Priced Candy Hearts and the Importance of Audience -->

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Bargain-Priced Candy Hearts and the Importance of Audience

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 We've reached my favorite part of February: when all of the Valentine's Day candy goes on sale.

One particular type of candy that has grown on me over the years is the conversation, candy heart. When I was little I thought they tasted like chalk, but maybe they've improved the recipe over the years? Regardless of flavor changes, the messages on the hearts have definitely been updated. 

Digging through a little box of colorful hearts, I can't help reading each little message as it comes up: "love", "laugh", "be mine", "smile", "you & me", "cute", "rock star", "hug me", and others are fairly obvious. But then there are hearts with messages like: "TTYL", "DM me", "lol" and "LYMY". I actually do understand the first three (talk to you later, direct-message me, and laugh out loud) but the fourth is a complete mystery to me. (EDIT: I've looked it up and apparently it stands for "love you, miss you".)

This variety of mini-comments makes me think of what we mean when we advise writers to consider their audience. Maybe some of you already knew what LYMY meant. Maybe others would be confused by hearts reading "XOXO" or "BFF". Fortunately, the candy will taste the same whether you know that x's and o's are sometimes used to represent kisses and hugs in correspondence, or that BFF stands for "best friends forever," but scholarly writing does not benefit from the same sugary advantage. 

Anything we write has an intended audience--even if that intended audience is ourselves or an intended audience of no one. When you write for coursework there is the obvious audience of the faculty who will grade the work, but there is also often an implied audience. Perhaps you've been instructed to write a lesson plan to share with another educator; a business memo to be shared with a large corporation; an interpretation of and diagnosis for a certain case study. You'll of course want to make sure you respond to each component of the assignment prompt, but you should also consider who you're conceptually writing for. 

-        What kind of information can you assume your audience will already have about the topic?

o   Would you need to explain what TTYL stands for?

-        What context does your audience need?

o   The fact that they are Valentine’s candy would suggest that messages like “smile” or “call me” have a different sentiment than they would coming from a photographer or a business card.

-        What are you ultimately hoping to achieve with regards to your audience?

o   When you send a Valentine to a friend, the message will likely be different than the one you send to your romantic interest.

To help you remember how to acknowledge the importance of your intended audience, here’s a somewhat forced acronym relating back to candy hearts:

How: how are you expected to present your information? The mode of communication will provide some clues into who your intended audience might be.

Expectation: what can you expect your intended reader to already know?

Additional: what extra background information will your reader need you to provide in order to fully understand what you’re trying to say?

Response: is there something you hope your reader will do with the information after reading? Are there potential questions or arguments you could circumvent by addressing them in your writing?

Task: what is the ultimate task you’ve been given with regards to the assignment? Would your reader be able to easily determine it based on what you’ve written?

To my intended audience: I hope you had a fun Valentine’s Day—or are at least similarly benefiting from reduced-price treats. And I hope this acronym and post in general are memorable enough to help you in your next writing assignment!

Kacy Walz is a writing instructor from St. Louis, MO. She is currently working on a PhD in Literature from the University of Missouri. Along with her work on the blog, Kacy also cohosts the Walden Writing Center podcast. She enjoys piña coladas and getting caught in the rain.Send me new posts by e-mail! button 

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