Publishing Research

19 Writing for Public Audiences

 Genre

When composing a text, one of the key components is to know who the intended audience is. Every form of text is a response to a . Whether that text is a time card to record the number of hours an employee has worked, or an airplane’s safety instructional pamphlet, they are each a response to who the author and audience is, and the exigence, purpose, constraint, and affordance of the situation.

The audience of a time card is an employer; hence the time card must be composed in a matter that addresses the employer in a way that they can understand. Since it is a response to the recurring rhetorical situation that occurs on a weekly basis, a time sheet can be considered as a . This genre is used as a means of communication in the relationship or  of employee and employer, and if you were to compose such a text, you would first have to study the manner in which they communicate, lexis, tone, etc.

Appealing to Your Audience

Ethos, logos, and pathos can help us to better understand how to appeal to our audience in the best ways possible by grabbing their attention and convincing them of our own beliefs in order to make a change or difference within the wanted discourse community. The most effective of communication will touch on all three of these forms of rhetoric through their genre.

Ethos

Ethos can be looked at as the most important part of your genre because without establishing ethos, no one will listen to you or care about what you have to say. You are most likely to be convinced of an argument by someone you trust. In more detail, the discourse community that you are appealing to is more likely to agree with you if they truly believe that you are a fair person who is knowledgeable and has good judgement. The three strategies that go into establishing a good sense of ethos to your audience includes:

  1. Establish that you have good judgement
  2. Convey to readers that you are knowledgeable
  3. Show that you understand the complexity of the issue

These strategies are interrelated because a writer who demonstrates good judgement is most likely someone who is both knowledgeable about an issue and someone who acknowledges the complexity of it by weighing both the strengths and weaknesses of different arguments without being biased with their own opinions.

Most readers of academic writing expect writers to have good judgement, and this applies to all forms of writing, or even non-writing, to all audiences. For example, when going to the doctor, you expect the doctor to make good decisions that would benefit your health. How we can do this as writers would be to first identify problems that your readers would agree are worth addressing. Try not to debate things that experts in that field already know. By addressing problems that are worth bringing attention to, your readers will form an interest in your writing and keep on reading. Additionally, trying to grab people’s attention to a problem that is already solved would create confusion at the very least.

Secondly, you want to make it seem like your issue is really important. Making your issue seem like it could be life or world changing would make the reader feel more empathetic toward actually taking action to make a change. Finally, it is crucial to convey to readers that you are fair minded and have their best interest at heart. Don’t deny important information to the reader just because it doesn’t support what you believe. If your audience looks further into the issue and discovers that there is a whole other side to the story that you didn’t tell them, they will completely discredit everything you said because you lied to them and in return, lost their trust. For example, commercials who are advertising for their medication always inform their audience of every side effect that is possible to occur. By establishing good judgement, credibility is earned by the writer.

Coming across as knowledgeable can be done in a number of ways. One way is to make a bold statement, anticipate questions from the audience and then answer the anticipated questions by supporting your claim with evidence which will demonstrate your grasp of the concept to the audience. It also shows that you have read widely on the topic, thought about the topic, and fully understand the issue. The type of evidence and support you need for your claims are historical knowledge as well as a large range of readings. It is important to be both thoughtful and knowledgeable on the issue. Knowledge includes the evidence used and your thoughtfulness includes new information, displaying insight and analytical thought based on the knowledge that you have gained on the issue. Additionally, backing up your own studies with references that are well known within your discourse community can make a huge difference in how your audience reacts to your information. For example, using dentists as a reference in relation to a specific toothpaste would be as effective as using a well-known celebrity with beautiful hair as a reference for a hair product. Saying that “Doctors all around the world recommend this treatment” would support your own opinion, gaining trust from your audience.

Finally, being multi-literate could allow you to reach a greater variety of people within your discourse community. For example, if you write letters well in addition to being twitter literate or are able to reach people through blogs, your issue and opinions could reach a much larger group of people than if you were only able to put out information to one specific type of literacy. Also, actually being literate in the form of writing you are using is very important and could embarrass you or hold you back from gaining publicity. Using a hashtag wrong in a tweet would just make people make fun of you and no one would take anything you say seriously.

Displaying the complexity of an issue will help the readers see that any issue can be understood in many ways. An example of this is politics, which can speak about issues that can have a large spectrum of understandings and solutions. It is important to acknowledge things that your audience most likely already knows, while also introducing new thinking, through your thoughtfulness, by analyzing what you have learned and by making inferences. By first acknowledging something that your audience already knows will force them to agree with you, ultimately creating a larger chance of them agreeing with your analytical thoughts and inferences. Also, introducing new thoughts and ideas to an issue you are passionate about could cause others to see things the way that you do which could ultimately allow for more people to take action towards making a change. Lastly, demonstrate that you understand the variety of viewpoints that your reader may or may not bring. You don’t want to come across as one sided on any issue or unable to see things that people in your discourse community see due to stubbornness within your own opinion. This could completely turn people off if they disagree with any of your beliefs.

Pathos

People are moved to act by emotions just as well as by reasonable arguments, which sounds scary, but could be used to your benefit. Different emotions can persuade an audience to feel a particular way about an issue. For example, sad dog commercials make the audience feel sad and want to make donations, while college posters in high schools can make students feel motivated and want to go to college. Establishing a common ground within your writing in attempt to get your audience to feel as strong about something as you do is crucial in order to appeal to their emotions. Think, “what emotions do I need to get my audience to feel to get them to feel the same way I do?” What emotions do you feel about the issue? What feelings make you passionate about the issue? You can do this by using examples or illustrations that you believe will arouse the appropriate or wanted emotion. While presenting these illustrations and examples, make sure you are using the appropriate tone. Most importantly, don’t let your appeal to pathos get in the way of your reasonable argument or good character you have already established.

It is very important to be careful when using possibly offensive language that may anger your readers. Writers usually cross this line when they begin to point fingers at who is at fault or who caused the issue that they are trying to overcome. Irony and sarcasm can be very risky as they can create distrust if you don’t think of your readers and what they value. Putting in your two cents about politics or religion may cause your readers to feel uncomfortable and not listen to what you have to say if they are offended. You must weigh the benefits of a clever, snarky sentence against its potential to ruin an argument or offend your audience. Relying on examples and illustrations to connect with your audience’s sense of values and to appeal to their emotions instead of using your own voice could be the best approach to making your audience feel a particular way. Appealing to emotions is best done indirectly.

Having confidence that your audience will feel the same way about the issue that you do is essential. You can do this by having evidence that supports your claims while also displaying emotions with confidence. Think about your own values and imagine what assumptions and principles would appeal to your readers. Try to find a common ground between your beliefs and theirs. This is very important so that you don’t overwhelm your audience with your opinions or discredit your credibility. The common ground established may have to adjust this common ground for different readers because some groups of people are more sensitive with certain topics than others. This is essential especially when establishing multi-literacy due to the variety of people you could be appealing to from genre to genre.

Thinking about what illustrations and examples resonate most with you in regards to your issue could be extremely beneficial because you were once the audience that a writer was appealing to. Think about what worked with you and what gets you the most excited about the issue. After figuring this out, think about how you can get your audience to act on the issue by presenting the information in the best way to have the highest emotional impact on your readers. It is also very important to adjust your presentation for different kinds of readers. When appealing to kids, display pictures and bold pictures, while adults could be more susceptible to more in depth meanings that younger people wouldn’t fully understand. Finally, by using credible sources, you can force readers to acknowledge what you want them to. Without information or background knowledge on the topic, readers cannot fully understand or act to change an issue.

Logos

Using factual pieces of evidence to advance or support your claims to convince your audience such as statistics, facts, or observations can force the audience to believe your claim, inferences, or analysis. Choosing your evidence based on what you anticipate your audience to expect is crucial so that you do not disappoint the reader or lose credibility. In more detail, the type of evidence that you use should be determined by the issue, problem, situation, and the reader’s expectations. The three ways to appeal to logos in your writing include stating the premise of your argument, using credible evidence to show readers that your argument has merit, and demonstrate that the conclusion follows from the premises.

When stating the premise of your argument, establish what you have found to be true and include what you want your readers to accept, believe, and feel passionate about through the use of your claims and evidence. Display data in order to, and only to, support what you expect your readers to believe or gather. This is crucial because if your reader finds any of your premises to be untrue, it will be almost impossible for them to accept your conclusion, making the entire process of creating your genre become a complete waste of time.

It is important to make sure that your evidence is sufficient and convincing in that it is getting the job done to support your claims. Inferences made through your analytical thought must also be logical and correct. You must be able to expect a reasonable person to draw the same conclusions from the premises. Making inferences that are too “out there” will turn off readers. The validity of your argument depends on whether the inferences you make are justified by the evidence that you use.

In your conclusion, you should be pulling everything you discussed by using appropriate concluding words like finally, in sum, ultimately, therefor, as a result, or all in all. It is also important to discuss how your evidence let to your conclusion and how you made the inferences that you did.

 

Key Terms

  • Discourse Community — A group of people who together use writing to work toward shared goals. From this shared focus consequently comes a sense of group identity and discursive norms.
  • Rhetorical Situation — The context of a piece of discourse—people, history, things, and ideas that relate to and shape the discourse.
  • Audience — The person(s), real or imagined, whose thoughts or actions a rhetor attempts to influence through discourse.
  • Ethos – How we present ourselves to our audience.
  • Logos – How we use logic and reason to appeal to our audience.
  • Pathos – How we appeal to our audience’s emotions.

 

License

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Writing @ Saint Leo by Chris Friend is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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