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Are You Writing for a Hostile Audience?

Most business communicators recognize the value of understanding their audience. It is especially important to determine whether you are writing for a hostile or friendly audience.

Are You Writing for a Hostile Audience?
Writing to Inform and Writing to Persuade 
In writing to inform, you will usually be writing for a friendly or neutral audience. In writing to persuade, you will often be writing for a hostile audience-in other words, you will be trying to motivate your audience to do something they do not want to do. "Hostile" only means hostile to your message, not hostile to you personally. 

Writing for a Friendly or Neutral Audience
In writing for a friendly or neutral audience, state your conclusions first and then support them with evidence. Doing this gives the reader a context in which to place your arguments. Knowing in advance where you are going, the reader is less likely to reach a different conclusion. 

Writing for a Hostile Audience
In writing for a hostile audience, you should present your arguments first and then your conclusions. If you start with your conclusions, the reader, who is disinclined to believe you, has no incentive to read further. Instead, you must convince the reader gradually. 

You manufacture and sell a new type of high-quality luggage. A retailer has just canceled his initial order for 40 pieces, on the grounds that he has had second thoughts and thinks he will have a hard time selling them. Your job is to convince him to reinstate his order on your terms. 

Rather than starting by saying that you are writing to get him to reinstate his order (which will cause him to stop reading), you should first explain the benefits to him, starting with the most important. You might mention your nationwide advertising campaign, your luggage's growing reputation for quality, and the favorable terms you are offering.

After you have demonstrated the benefits of carrying your luggage, he should be more amenable to your conclusion that he should reinstate his order. 

All the best,
P.S. Remember: a selection of my past newsletters is available online at http://www.holton.cc/archive.html.