Writing for the audience, not your ego

Recently I mentioned to a sharp, gifted journalism student that the embattled governor of Illinois should, “exorcise the demons,” from within. They looked puzzled and said, “Why would you ‘exercise’ demons?” I believe they were stumped by the visualization of little devils running on a treadmill or huffing and puffing on an elliptical machine.

OK, so much for using some outdated language that does not resonate with a young person.

Maybe I should have said, “Like, he needs to chill and think about what he’s doing.”

Well, to me, that doesn’t sound nearly as interesting. However, let’s be frank — you must gear your language to the audience so it makes sense.

I have used, ineffectively, Shakespeare, gotten students confused with references to Richard Nixon (like, “I’m not a crook”), and generally realized that pop culture and current word usage is something that I must take into account when writing or speaking.

While I want to blame students, their parents and their high school teachers for limiting my use of Greek mythology, World War II and Tim Leary, I must understand that “The times they are a changing,” to quote another outdated legend.


1 thought on “Writing for the audience, not your ego

  1. “…Gear your language to the audience so it makes sense” sounds like another way of saying “Speak to the lowest common denominator.” Perhaps we should try to raise others to our level, rather than lowering ourselves to theirs. The times can change in a positive way, too. Besides, why do the young always get to be the tastemakers?

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