The Writing Process: Audience & Goal Setting (Heather Randall)

75 minutes

The Writing Process: Rhetorical Situation, Audience, Setting Goals


  • Students will set specific, time-sensitive goals to help them complete the opinion editorial successfully.
  • Students will be able to identify their audience for the op ed they will be writing and the needs/concerns of that audience. They will use an understanding of their audience to help them begin the writing process.

5 minutes – We’ve been talking about GRAPE, or the rhetorical situation, we’re writing in. We discussed genre last time. Today, we are going to explore audience.

  • The audience that is easy to write to will be the people who already agree with you, who really like whatever it is you’re saying.
    • Think the audience on Ellen: everyone’s laughing, all the time.
  • Have you ever been to a concert for a band you didn’t like? Or that you just vaguely knew? Now, compare that to a concert for a band you loved.
  • Unlike Ellen’s audience and more like a band’s audience, we have no control over who our audience is. So the best thing we can do is to be super aware of the audience we’re writing for—those who will agree, those who won’t, and everyone in between.
  • Write: You are writing this op ed for the BYU Universe. Who is your audience? Think specific. What types of people will agree with you? Disagree? Be as specific as you can.

3 minutes – Pull up the Opinion Editorial assignment sheet. Explain where to find it. Read the highlighted section. Reiterate: Your audience won’t just be students. So who will they be?

10 minutes – Turn to page 76 in MW. We’re going to “blow up” our concept of the audience.

  • Identify the audience being described with a short blurb and an example (if possible)
  • I’ll do the first one. Discourse communities: groups with common interests (Church members, BYU students and faculty, poker players and watchers, Hamilton fans, the Democrat party)
  • Split into groups of two or three and each group take one bullet point (8).

10 minutes – Fishbowl: Write down your topics (be pretty specific) on this piece of scratch paper and put it into my bag. Let’s see if we can blow up the audience on a couple of these. (Work with two bullet points for each topic we choose—choose 5 topics)

7 minutes – Write: identify your audience as quickly as you can. Don’t think too hard—just go for it. Take two minutes. Be quick thinking and as specific as your brain will let you be.

15 minutes – Kairos: “the opportune or fitting moment for an action” – so, like exigence, but a little deeper. This is debatable. You’ve got to convince your audience of the kairos of your arugment: not just the timeliness of your issue, but why it matters now for your audience.

  • “The right words at the right time can influence the right people.”

Timeliness of your issue for your audience. Kairos. Why do they even care? Convince them that they do!

  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Why We Can’t Wait” speech – quote: “Time itself is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively. More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than have the people of good will. We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to work to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation. We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time is always ripe to do right.”
  • What was Dr. King convincing people to do? How was he getting them to stop being stagnant and push for change?

Write down: Why should your audience actually be interested in your topic? What do you want them to do, feel, think, and change? Why should this issue be important to them?

**Discuss: We have just set up a great writing process that you can follow every time you write a paper. What did we do first? Then what? (Talk as a class about these steps. Write them on the board. Show them how this is a re-usable process for getting ideas and understanding what you need to argue.)

10 minutes – The Writing Process: Setting Goals

  • If time, watch Studio C sketch about setting goals: “You Deserve a Better You”
  • Writing needs to be goal oriented. There are two types of goals that are really helpful to set when you’ve got a writing task ahead of you (MW p. 22-23):
    • Specific Product Goals: What do you want the end result to look like? My suggestion: Use the kairos of your argument to accomplish this. I will help my audience change their viewpoint about ____ by using a call to action at the end of my paper.
    • Self-Regulating Goals: Writing is hard, and we do all kinds of things to avoid it. MW says, “Don’t stew—do” (24).
      • Environmental
        • Varying where you write may help you make useful mental connections.
        • Turn off your phone. Don’t get distracted!
        • Write every day so that you can let your mind think while you’re not sitting down to actually write. You can’t think clearly when you’re stressed.
      • Personal
        • Self-monitor—set goals to check your own progress. Reward yourself! Be flexible but expect yourself to do good work.
      • Social
        • Talk about your writing with others.
        • You will need to go to the RWC in the library with this paper at some point in the drafting process. I would suggest going early on. Go today! Go tomorrow! For example, they can help you identify parts of your audience you might not be thinking about, and they can help you do research for the audience.

Set some goals for your paper using what you’ve just outlined for us.

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