So Tuesday afternoon I received an unexpected surprise—an article I’d written for the Gospel Coalition had been reposted.
While surprising, it was also kind of cool as it put a piece that overall both my editor and I were pretty happy with in front of a different sort of audience. The response has also been… interesting. Some folks really resonated with the piece; others, not so much. Others still had some really helpful critiques that I would absolutely implement if I were writing the article again today.
This experience has reminded me of something really valuable when it comes to writing:
You have to know your audience.
While I always try to write as broadly as possible, there are inevitably some assumptions that I make. When I write here or at TGC, for example, I tend to allow my theological convictions to come through a little more strongly than I do anywhere else. In my day job, my convictions are there, but because I’m speaking to a broader audience from a variety of Christian denominations, I tend to temper it appropriately. When I’ve revised and rewritten material for my church’s outreach team I’ve attempted to write with as much clarity as possible, remembering that the intended audience is non-Christian.
But what do you do when something you write shows up somewhere you never anticipated?
A couple things come to mind:
- Be clear. The worst thing that I can do is assume that the reader has the same knowledge I have about any subject (this is what the Heath brothers refer to as the curse of knowledge). I need to try to be sensible in my writing, giving enough explanation, maybe leaving a little bit of appropriate “white space”, but not overdoing it by overexplaining everything.
- Be thoughtful. Make sure I don’t reinforce stereotypes or promote caricatures of any position I may disagree with if an article addresses potentially controversial subject matter.
- Don’t worry. At the end of the day, I’ve got no control where any article I write for this blog or any other ends up. While I can do my best to be clear and thoughtful, I’m never going to please everyone, nor should I try.
Now, it’s your turn: What are some factors you think is important for writers to keep in mind as they write?