As I write for young adults, for example, I know I can include challenging vocabulary but need to keep the content appropriate for the age. Writers of books for younger children simplify vocabulary or use repetition to reinforce ideas. You know, as a reader, that a book on dogs for a kindergartener is very different than a book on dogs for a high schooler, or for an adult. Keep in mind the age of your target reader.
Audiences are not determined by age alone. When I was revising the beginning of On a Wing and a Dare, many reviewers mentioned that I had a lot of place names and character names in the first chapter. Fantasy readers, however, understood that those names are needed in order to create the world. The important names will be repeated until the reader sorts out the characters. Keep in mind the interests of your target reader.
Nowhere is audience consideration more important than in persuasive writing. Arguments that work very well with your friends, for example, will never work with your parents.
For example, let’s say that you want to skip a family birthday party to go to a new movie with a friend. What do you say to your friend? Your friend agrees with you, so this is easy. Maybe you say it’s opening day for the movie and everyone will be talking about it at school tomorrow; your favorite actor is in it and you can’t wait to see it; it’s fun to go together. After all, your cousin has a birthday every year and this movie only comes out once, right?
Now do those arguments work for your parents? Of course not. You might begin the same way, but if you don’t address the family obligation you won’t be allowed to go. And your parents are never going to like the birthday once a year idea. Maybe you offer to go see your cousin earlier in the day, or stop by after the movie. Maybe you point out a lot of other people will be there, including friends your cousin has invited, and you really won’t be missed.
And what if you are trying to persuade the cousin who is having the birthday? Maybe you apologize and promise to make it up to him/her later. Maybe you offer to take the cousin to the movie with you. But you definitely DON’T say the movie is more important than the birthday.
So when you start writing persuasive essays, whether to a teacher’s prompt or your own, pay close attention to who you are trying to convince. Brainstorm a mass of arguments, but only include in your essay the ones that relate closely to your audience.
On my Kindle: Priscilla the Great by Sybil Nelson