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Listen before you talk
When you know a lot about the people you are writing for, you can tailor your text to their needs. For example, you can:
In these ways, you allow your visitors to influence the way you write.
In a real conversation, you are always aware of the way the other person is reacting--where they nod, when they lunge forward hoping to interrupt, and so on.
You adapt your words and tone to indicate how you regard the other person, what you want, where you are going.
But when you do not have the full bandwidth of direct human contact, you have to guess what the other people think of you, how you are going to relate to them, what they want to hear, and what you want to say to them.
That's why we need to know more about our online audiences, before we carry on a virtual conversation with them.
The more sensitive you are to online conversation and its nuances, the more you can eliminate the odd quirks, biases, and focal points in your prose, so it begins to seem transparent to the readers, that is, you do not rub them the wrong way with your own personal agenda.
In part, then, you are erasing your own originality, but you're doing this for a reason: To make contact, to make sense, to convince, to reach out to this other person. How sociable!
Do you really know your audience? We often write for ourselves, for our boss, for our team. Oh, and incidentally, we may draw on the little we know about the people in our audience, too, but that doesn't take us very far. So we soon forget them.
Result: consumers find the prose impenetrable, and gripe about the frightening amount of jargon, the unfriendly tone, and the confusing way the material is organized.
Info consumers are not you.
To psyche out what topics really matter to your many different audiences and to develop a tone that works for individual members of that crowd, you need to learn more about them as members of particular niche groups, and, more important, as unique individuals.
Who am I writing for, and, incidentally, who am I? (Full chapter from Hot Text, in PDF, 566K, or about 10 minutes at 56k)
Who is this person? Why is he wearing a Lego truck on his hat?
Writing that Works!