Audience in Composition:

In composition studies, audience is viewed as the group of readers that one’s writing is targeted at and essentially adapted to. Scholars of this discipline study the effect that audience awareness has on the quality of writing. Also, they study the definition of “audience awareness,” which refers to how the writer envisions an audience throughout the writing process. Scholars, such as Andrea Lunsford and Lisa Ede, argue that a writer can envision a realistic audience outside of the paper as well as an imagined audience that the writer creates and brings to the paper. In addition to the basic study of how one imagines their audience, composition scholars, such as Peter Elbow, study when writers do adapt their writing to an audience and when the writer exhibits audience awareness throughout the writing process. They argue that how and when a writer envisions and addresses an audience affects the overall quality of the paper. However, numerous scholars suggest that there is a combination of when and how that is can improve a writer’s paper from studying the diverse audience techniques of professional and experienced writers. But, ultimately, they assert that when the writer finds the right technique, his/her paper will benefit.


I.) Audience Awareness Defined

II.) Audience Awareness during the Writing Process

III.) The Impact of Audience Awareness on the Quality of Writing

IV.) Further Research to be Explored (The Gaps)

       V.) References Edit


           I.) Audience Awareness

Composition scholars define two different forms of audience awareness that writer’s may use separately or in conjunction with one another: these two types of audience awareness are an “invoked” audience and an “addressed” audience. The major difference between the two forms of audience awareness is that to the writer one is more realistic and tangible, the audience addressed, while the other is more broad and unique to the writer, which is audience invoked or imagined. Lisa Ede and Andrea Lunsford discuss these two manifestations of audiences awareness in a writer and their differences as well as contributions to the development of one’s writing in their article “Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy." Ede and Lunsford explore the differences between addressing a specific audience (addressed) and creating one’s own audience (invoked) while writing. Essentially, they state that an audience addressed is also an audience invoked because a writer ultimately fictionalizes an audience because it is not right there while they’re writing. Also, they state that a writer must envision two kinds of audience: one inside the text and one outside the text. They assert that through the writing process, writers create roles for the reader and the reader influences the way in which the writer writes and, hence, both rely on one another- the relationship is interdependent. Ede and Lunsford see the benefits of both imagining an audience and adapting to a real audience throughout the writing process because both enhance a writer’s connection with the readers. A writer has the ability to envision a real and specific audience that exists outside of the text and a writer also has the ability to envision a broad and diverse audience that they conjure from their own experiences and conceptions.

          II.) Audience Awareness during the Writing Process : Audience Awareness as you Revise vs. Audience Awareness throughout the Writing Process

Peter Elbow addresses answering the question of when a writer should envision his or her audience in his article "Closing My Eyes As I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience." At first, he asserts that it is essential for the writer to ignore the audience during the earlier steps of the writing process in order for the writer to successfully develop his or her own ideas. Next, he suggests a writer should imagine an audience while revising his or her ideas later in the writing process, which is after his or her ideas have been fully developed. During this revision process, he asserts that the writer should adapt his or her ideas to an envisioned audience in order to make them readable to readers but, in the process, should not alter the essence of his or her ideas. Numerous studies support Elbow’s assertion that revising to an audience later in the writing process is the most beneficial to the overall quality of a writer’s paper. Scholars state that this is most important in younger writers who are still undergoing cognitive development and cannot successfully focus on developing ideas and audience at the same time compared to if they focus on one at a time. In another study on audience awareness, which Bennett Rafoth presents in his article “Audience Adaptation in the Essays of Proficient and Nonproficient Freshman Writers,” he illustrates that “better” writers are more readily able to take advantage of audience information successfully than “lesser” writers are. He states that nonproficient writers struggled to string together their ideas while ignoring their audience, which suggests that weaker writers need to concentrate more on their basic development of their ideas before they can consider audience (248). Rafoth's discoveries in this study directly support Elbow’s theory that a person’s writing can seriously benefit from considering audience after one is able to first develop his/her own ideas and thoughts. Rafoth concludes that it may be beneficial for a writer to focus on their audience during a certain time during the writing process and it also may be beneficial for a writer to focus on audience throughout the entire paper depending upon the ability and cognitive development of the writer in order to determine the most advantageous time during the writing process for them to exhibit audience awareness.

 Numerous composition scholars also have found in their studies and do suggest that it is beneficial to the overall quality of one's writing to exhibit audience awareness throughout the writing process rather than just during the revision process. In a study discussed in his article “The Evolving Audience,” Robert Roth concludes that that continuous audience awareness throughout the writing process is beneficial to the overall quality of the paper for certain writers. He discusses the writings of three advanced writers at a community college who all constantly considered their audience throughout their drafting and revising processes and, as result, the discovery of new ideas and revising of their audience were clearly interrelated in the development of their paper as a whole ( Roth 53). Roth states that constantly considering one’s audience during the writing process can help an “advanced” writer further develop his or her ideas more fully. But, he does suggest that this may not work for a lesser writer or younger writer. Studies reveal that it is important that a writer discovers when it is best for them and the overall development of their ideas in their writing to consider audience because audience awareness can harm the quality of a writer’s paper if focused on at the wrong time for that specific writer. Together all of these studies hypothesize that it may be beneifical to the quality of one's writing to exhibit audience awareness either during the revision process or throughout the entire writing process depending directly upon the writer's cognitive abilities, overall experience in writing, and individual qualities.

          III.)  The Impact of Audience Awareness on the Quality of Writing

Numerous studies illustrate that audience awareness can contribute to the development of a writer’s paper by causing a writer to enhance his or her attention to his or her own ideas as well as to the readability of the paper. Kathleen Black and Moshe Cohen and Margaret Riel conduct studies on audience awareness that show that providing a writer with a specific audience and information about this audience affects the quality of many parts of the paper.In her article “Audience Analysis and Persuasive Writing at the College Level,” Black discusses a study where both audience specification and information about the viewpoints of the audience helps the writers develop more persuasive papers because they were able to make more connections between the topic of the text and a concrete audience within their writing (241). She states that audience consideration helped these writers decenter themselves from their own writing and allowed them to create more communicative and persuasive texts. In their article “The Effect of Distant Audiences on Students’ Writing,” Moshe Cohen and Margaret Riel discuss a study that reveals that students developed overall better papers, scored holistically, and fully developed their ideas in their papers when asked to target a specific audience of their peers who they were close to in age and knowledge. In comparison, the students developed less developed papers when writing to their teacher who they viewed as an evaluator not as a “real” reader or audience (154-55). This study specifically shows that identifying a real audience while writing one’s paper has the potential to help a writer develop his/her ideas more fully with the objective of providing explicit and clear information to a reader. Studies reveal that successful audience awareness has the ability to enhance the quality of one’s writing because it influences the writer to review his or her ideas and work in a critical manner as well as to connect their writing with others in a meaningful manner. But, successful audience awareness depends upon the ability of the writer to exhibit audience awareness according to their own ability of writing and persona, which dictates when and how they should envision the audience.

                IV.) Further Research: Filling in the Gaps

Since numerous studies do reveal that it is beneficial for the quality of one’s writing to exhibit audience awareness during one’s writing process, scholars think that it is important to further study the development and successful illustration of this skill in professional and successful writers. Carol Berkenkotter conducted a study of give experienced composition professor regarding their audience awareness throughout the writing of a piece and concluded that the profession of the writers influenced the type of discourse they chose in their writing (informative, persuasive, and narrative) and, in return, the type of discourse influenced how they considered and represented their audience. Some writers viewed their audience as “distant” from them and, as a result, the goals of the writer’s paper were to persuade the audience and create a persona to relate to the audience (391). Hence, the way a specific writer views the rhetorical situation and, consequently, view the audience affects when and how often they consider the audience and use the audience to develop their writing. More research needs to be conducted on the writing procedures of experienced writers in order to offer different methods that successfully consider and utilize audience in one’s development of their writing that may be more effective for learning or new writers than their current methods of audience consideration (or lack of) in their own writing.  Gesa Kirsch discusses in her article “Writing up and down the Social Ladder” a similar study to Berkenkotter’s with a study of a study of five experienced writers and their consideration of audience as they composed aloud while writing to two different audiences. The study reveals that the writers varied in their writing processes and audience considerations because each analyzed audience at different parts of their composing processes. Hence each writer had a unique “interpretative framework” when analyzing the writing task and their sense of an audience’s authority within the rhetorical context (48). Her conclusion is similar to Berkenkotter’s in that she implies that more research on successful writers regarding how they exhibit audience awareness throughout the writing process must be conducted in order to fully understand the possibilities of how audience awareness can be taught in composition classes specifically. Studies of professional writers and audience awareness in their writing do suggest that each experienced writer’s composing process and interpretative framework of this overall process is unique and equally successful in creating high-quality writing at the same time. Scholars call out to other scholars to expand upon this finding to discover an array of successful audience awareness tactics and successful combinations of the when and how.

V.) References to Scholars and Articles:

Berkenkotter, Carol. "Understanding a Writer’s Awareness of Audience." College Composition and Communication 32.4 (1981): 388-399. JSTOR. Web. 12 Nov 2012.

Black, Kathleen. "Audience Analysis and Persuasive Writing at the College Level." Research in the Teaching of English 23.3 (1989): 231-253. JSTOR. Web. 2 Nov 2012.

Cohen, Moshe, and Margaret Riel. "The Effect of Distant Audiences on Students' Writing." American Educational Research Journal 26.2 (1989): 143-159. JSTOR. Web. 19 Oct 2012.

Elbow, Peter. "Closing My Eyes As I Speak: An Argument for Ignoring Audience." College English 49.1 (1987): 50-68. EBSCO. Web. 12 Oct 2012.

Ede, Lisa, and Andrea Lunsford. "Audience Addressed/Audience Invoked: The Role of Audience in Composition Theory and Pedagogy." College Composition and Communication 35.2 (1984): 155-170. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Oct 2012.

Kirsch, Gesa. "Writing up and down the Social Ladder: A Study of Experienced Writers Composing for Contrasting Audiences." Research in the Teaching of English 25.1 (1991): 33-53. JSTOR. Web. 16 Nov 2012.

Rafoth, Bennett. "Audience Adaptation in the Essays of Proficient and Nonproficient Freshman Writers." Research in the Teaching of English 19.3 (1985): 237-253. JSTOR. Web. 7 Nov 2012.

Roth, Robert. "The Evolving Audience: Alternatives to Audience Accommodation." College Composition and Communication 38.1 (1987): 47-55. JSTOR. Web. 12 Oct 2012.