Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Adapting to Audience in Writing

Question: Does assigning an audience result in better writing?

Answer/Quote: “When the assigned reader and English teachers rated the essays for persuasiveness, assigning an audience had a limited effect on the assigned reader’s scores and no significant effect on the teachers’ scores. However, analysis of questionnaire and interview data indicated that assigning an audience increased students’ interest, effort, and use of audience-based strategies.” P. 77.

Quote: “Certainly, we could encourage students to think about an appropriate audience—assigned or unassigned. After all, the results of this study suggest that assigning a real audience may help some students write better. The results also suggest that thinking of someone like the reader and referring to many of the reader’s concerns may help students persuade the assigned reader. However, the results reveal discrepancies between the writers’ intentions and their writing. These discrepancies should remind teachers that instruction is a crucial variable. An assignment cannot teach writers how to persuade a reader, no matter how much they know about the reader and no matter how motivated they are.” P. 99.

Comment: It’s one thing to ask writers to consider audience. It’s another thing to show them how to adapt their writing to the audience. I’ll be looking for articles on how to teach student writers to adapt to audience characteristics. RayS.

Title: “The Effects of Audience Specification on Undergraduates’ Attitudes, Strategies, and Writing.” TM Redd-Boyd and WH Slater. Research in the Teaching of English (February 1989), 77-108.

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