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What Tone is Right? For Whom? - Considering Your Audience

The instructor obviously is the first, or primary, audience of student writing. Many assignments, however, require students to write for an implied or an imagined audience, such as another expert or a dissenting voice.

Before you can decide on the proper tone for that audience, you first must consider the needs of these readers:

  • Create an audience profile. How informed is my audience? What do they already know about my topic? What should I emphasize to enable them to understand my position?
  • Write a dialogue between yourself and another perspective. What are the questions they will have about my subject? What objections will they have? How can I address these questions most effectively for them?
  • Answer these questions before you write so you can make sound decisions about the style, tone and diction of the essay. Will it be formal, conversational or something in between? Will I need to define technical terms or can I assume my readers are already familiar with them?

If you are not certain of the basic requirements of an assignment or of the style expected by a discipline, go to the sections on Analyzing The Assigment and Connections: RLC & Other Courses.