Internal and External Audiences

Beginning writers tend to think that they are writing for “everybody.” “Everybody” doesn’t exist. Few subjects are of interest to all people. Even those audiences most like the writer, perhaps classmates, come from different geographical areas, ethnic and religious backgrounds, and family situations. Communicating with them requires careful choices in wording and logical sequence and skill in using tools we have to work with.

Do intended readers already understand the subject or do they need background information? Do they share beliefs, or must you persuade them? Asking questions to define the audience enables the writer to select the most effective tone and content.

Internal audiences: internal audiences are those who share values or common points of reference with the author. They may be classmates, members of a club, or people with a common origin. Internal audiences share common vocabularies. In writing to them, it is acceptable to use local terminology, acronyms, and even shared biases.

Example: SeaAggies know that classes are held in CLB on the Mitchell campus at TAMUG. They have a common desire to “Beat the hell out of TU.”

In giving directions to an external audience (those who have never been here before) it is more effective to say "some classes are held in building 2007 on the Mitchell campus at Texas A&M University in Galveston. Our arch rival is the University of Texas,

External Audiences: External audiences do not have the inside information or common background shared by internal audiences. In writing to an external audience, spell out acronyms and use terms which are universal and are easily understood. External audiences may need background information which would be unnecessary when communicating with internal audiences.

Positive, Negative, and Neutral Audiences: In persuasive writing it is important to know whether your audience is positive, neutral, or against your proposition before you attempt to influence their thinking. Persuasive writing is normally directed to people who are neutral or unaware of the importance of the information you are presenting.

There is no need to persuade administrators at TAMUG that completion of the new science building is important in our future growth. Those who are firmly against adding expenses to the state budget are unlikely to support funding building projects, regardless of merit.

Appeal to neutral audiences: Neutral audiences may be somewhat positive, or somewhat negative, or may have limited knowledge of the idea you are presenting. They need solid information backed with accurate figures and well-documented sources. They will make a decision based on the quality of the information you provide.

In presidential campaigns, normally less than 10% of the voters are undecided by the last month of campaigning. In order to win the election, a candidate must reach more than half (5.1%) of the neutral voters. Campaign funds are directed to specific states with large numbers of undecided voters, and messages are about topics likely to be of interest to voters in those states. Language and approaches to presenting information should be selected based on your evaluation of their effectiveness in reaching neutral audiences

Target neutral audiences to make your writing effective. Use a neutral tone; an appeal which is too strong or emotionally loaded may cause a neutral audience to become skeptical. Begin with general information, add specific facts and figures to support your position, and conclude with a summary and an appeal for support.


Audiences are:Audiences have positions regarding your ideas:
Internal For
External Neutral

Writer’s tip: Because you are unlikely to influence people who are strongly against your ideas and you have no need to influence those who are strongly in favor, target neutral audiences by using neutral language, providing general background information, and supporting your position with factual information presented in a logically developed sequence.

More about evaluating audiences: Before writing, it is useful to write a brief description defining your target audience. You may be appealing to young educated people in Texas colleges, or you may be appealing to accountants and administrators who fund grants. You may be writing to people who share a common religious faith, or you may be writing to people who will make decisions based on practical information rather than ideals. The more you know about your audience, and the more carefully you define it, the more effective you will be in influencing your readers’ thinking and securing support for your ideas.