How to Connect with Readers


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

October 2, 2019 

How to Connect with Readers

"Readers have to be sought out and won to the light of the page."

—C. D. Wright

At a recent concert, I was excited to hear the opening band, but they didn’t seem excited to see the audience. Not once did the lead singer greet or acknowledge us. At no point did the band play one of our favorite songs. When the set ended, the members dropped their instruments and exited the stage. No “thank you.” No “enjoy the rest of the show.” Nothing.

That lackluster performance offers a lesson about business communication. Writing works best when it connects with the audience. We must write for readers, not at them. 

How can I plan for my reader?

Asking these questions before writing can help you build audience awareness:

  • What is my relationship with my reader? Think of the strength of the relationship and position of the reader.
  • What does my reader know and need to know? Match details to a specific reader or to a broad audience.
  • What does my reader need or want? Match details to the writer's needs.
  • How will the person feel about my message? (Encouraged? Discouraged? Helped? Threatened? Informed?) Write with the receiver’s feelings in mind.
  • What do I want the reader to do? Think of the reader’s responsibility and authority.

How can I write for my reader?

The following writing strategies can help you connect with readers. 
  • Start and end politely. (Include a respectful salutation and closing.)
  • Use please and thank you.
  • Use we, us, and ours to include (not exclude) the audience. (In negative situations, avoid you, which can sound accusatory.)
  • Use appropriate courtesy titles (Mr., Ms., Dr.).
  • Treat names with respect and spell them properly.
  • Focus on the reader's needs.

How can I revise for my reader?

Asking audience-based questions will help you strengthen your work's connection with readers. If you answer any of these questions with "no," revise your writing so you can answer "yes."

  • Does the writing address what my reader needs to know?
  • Have I anticipated how the reader will feel about this message?
  • Are my voice and word choice respectful of the reader and subject matter?
  • Are calls to action stated politely?
  • Do I define technical terms or jargon that my reader might not know?
  • Is the content appropriate for potential secondary readers?
(Save the revising questions as a Google Doc checklist.)

Play the Editor!

Copy the following email into a document. Revise the email so that it connects well with the reader. Then scroll to the bottom to see our recommended revision. 

To: Al Henderson
Subject: Where Are Your Evaluation Forms???


I see that you're late with your line evaluation forms again. Your personal problems have resulted in an inability to perform your duties and are cutting down G sector's efficiency, putting us all behind schedule. Such laziness is beyond acceptable parameters and will not be tolerated. Get on it or get out.

Your supervisor

Get More Support

Explore the Write for Business Guide for more tips on connecting with readers.


Editor's Recommendation

To: Al Henderson
Subject: Please Complete Last Week's Evaluation Forms

Dear Al, 

I just wanted to remind you to turn in your line evaluation forms from last week. Your division has always been a top performer but has been a little off lately, and these forms will help us monitor where we can help you improve efficiency. 

If there is any way I can help, please let me know.