Prompt Audience

An audience is a group of people who take something in, such as a movie, play, or text. In writing, the audience is the specific group of people who will read the text. Writers have to consider the audience when writing so that the text has the desired impact. 

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Prompt Audience


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An audience is a group of people who take something in, such as a movie, play, or text. In writing, the audience is the specific group of people who will read the text. Writers have to consider the audience when writing so that the text has the desired impact.

For instance, if a writer is trying to persuade an audience of people who do not know much about a topic to agree with their stance, they need to educate the audience about it first. However, if the audience already knows a lot, the writer can jump right into making their point.

The key to determining the audience of an essay is often hidden in the prompt. An essay prompt tells the writer what to write about and often stipulates guidelines like how long the essay should be and what style guide to follow. Closely reading an essay's prompt can help the writer understand who the audience is and brainstorm how to address them.

Prompt Audience, Audience, StudySmarter Fig. 1 - In writing, the word audience refers to the specific people who will read a text.

Types of Audience in Academic Writing

When writing an academic text, writers need to keep their audience in mind. In academic writing, the intended audience is the population of readers who will likely read the text. Writers need to identify their audience accurately, so their writing is accessible to the main group of readers. The main types are audiences are experts and laypeople.


Many audiences for academic writing fall into the category of experts. Experts are people who know a lot about the topic at hand. Professors, colleagues, and test graders fall into this category. For instance, if a student is writing a rhetorical analysis essay on a standardized English examination, they can assume that the test rater is an expert in the field of English writing.

Prompt Audience, Professor, StudySmarterFig. 2 - In academic writing, the intended audience of an essay is often a professor.


Laypeople are people who do not have a lot of knowledge on the topic an essay is about. For instance, if a person writes a summary of a historical event for a friend who has not studied the topic, that friend is a layperson. If one is writing a blog post or an informal webpage, their audience might be laypeople.

The writer's explanation of a topic will change depending on the intended audience. For example, imagine someone is analyzing a writer's use of figurative language in a story. If they are writing for an expert audience, such as a professor, they might write analytical sentences such as:

The writer's use of natural imagery and simile characterizes the antagonist as a woman who embodies an idealized form of beauty.

However, if a writer is writing for a more informal audience of laypeople, they should use simpler language and break down the concepts more. For instance, they might write:

A simile uses like or as to compare two concepts. For example, the author here uses a simile when she writes: "Her hair was bright like the sunlight." This simile helps the reader picture the woman the main character dislikes.

There will often be people outside the intended audience who reads the text, but it is important to gear the style and tone of the text to the general audience. For instance, an article for a scholarly academic journal should use formal academic language and can use esoteric vocabulary because the intended audience is scholars in that field.

Understanding the Audience

Writers not only have to identify their audience but reflect on what their audience is looking for in the text. For instance, students often write essays where the intended audience is their professor. They thus know that they can use detailed concepts from the field and the class because the professor is an expert on the topic. However, students also need to consider what the professor will assess in their text.

For example, is the professor assessing students' knowledge of a topic or their ability to structure an argument on the topic? In the first case, the student should work on going into detail about relevant concepts, while in the second case, the writer should focus more on crafting a concise, well-organized argument rather than showing off knowledge.

Prompting Audience Participation

Writers need to keep their readers interested in their writing so that they stay focused and read all of it. Once writers have identified their audience, they can craft their text in a way that prompts audience participation and engagement. To do this, readers should tailor their word choice, subject choice, and stylistic decisions based on their audience.

For instance, if the intended audience is a group of experts, then the writer likely does not have to spend a lot of time explaining the basic concepts behind their argument. This will not engage the readers who already understand the topic. Instead, the writer should prioritize adding a new perspective on the topic that experts have not heard before. On the other hand, if the audience is new to the field, the writer should keep their writing simple and focus more on explaining basic concepts.

Methods for encouraging audience participation in writing include the following:

  • Ask rhetorical questions

  • Prompt reflection

  • Encourage personal connections

  • Use humor

  • Explain how the topic relates to an issue the audience cares about

When using the above strategies in writing, it is important to tailor them to the intended audience. For instance, if the audience is formal, such as a professor or group of test raters, the writer should limit the use of humor and personal stories, and make sure they are appropriate. Formal audiences like these want to see the writers' ability to use formal, academic language. However, the writer can use more casual language and tone if the audience is more casual, such as family and friends reading a blog post.

Audience Writing Prompts

An essay's intended audience differs based on the topic and prompt. To determine who the intended audience of an essay is, writers have to read the prompt closely. They should break the prompt into pieces and underline keywords and requirements.

For instance, consider the following example narrative essay prompt, a type of prompt that asks writers to write a story, that is for an English class:

Everyone gets embarrassed from time to time. Write an essay to your future self about a recent embarrassing experience you had. Reading it years from now will remind you how trivial it is and how much you have grown.

A writer closely reading this prompt would highlight from what perspective they have to write the narrative and who they are supposed to address in their writing.

When determining the audience of this essay, the writer will see that it is twofold. On the one hand, they have to direct the story to their future self, so they are their own audience. This means that they can be a bit personal with their information. However, they are also writing this for their English teacher to read, so they have to keep their writing appropriate for school.

The following example prompt asks writers to craft a persuasive essay, which means it asks writers to craft an argument in response to the prompt.

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. gave a monumental speech about his dreams for a more equitable future. Write an essay that critically analyzes his use of the three rhetorical devices and argues which one is most effective.

Since this prompt asks for a critical analysis of rhetorical devices, it assesses the writer's understanding of rhetorical devices. This implies that the audience is a reader who understands rhetorical techniques enough to assess them.

Prompt audience. Martin Luther King. StudySmarter.Fig. 3 - Does your audience know the basics?

It is less common for academic writers to encounter prompts with a layperson audience. However, the following example demonstrates a prompt for a descriptive essay with a layperson audience — adolescent readers.

When kids hit their teenage years, they often start joining in family traditions. Describe in detail how to cook an American Thanksgiving dinner for teens.

The phrase "for teens" at the end of this prompt tells the reader that this essay's audience is adolescents. This means that the writer should not use terms that are too complex, such as only terms professional chefs would understand. Instead, the writer should write in a clear, straightforward manner. They should also keep in mind that they are writing this text for their teacher, so they should still keep their writing appropriate for school.

Audience in Writing Examples

The following examples demonstrate how a writer might address the audience in their writing for the above prompts.

Addressing an Expert Audience

Imagine a writer is responding to the above prompt about the rhetorical devices in Martin Luther King's speech. Since the audience has enough expertise in rhetorical techniques to assess the essay about them, the writer can use advanced vocabulary, a formal tone, and a complex style. For instance, an excerpt of an essay directed at that expert audience might look like this:

King's use of pathos is more effective than his use of ethos, because he uses it more consistently to elicit emotional responses from the crowd. For example, he mentions his own children and his dream for them, which prompts the audience to reflect not their own dreams for their loved ones.

Addressing a Layperson Audience

A writer addressing the personal narrative prompt could use more informal language. For instance, a writer might write:

Remember, even though you feel embarrassed now, no one remembers what happened. Try not to think about it too much; instead, focus on not making that mistake again!

A writer responding to the prompt about traditions for teens would also need to use simple word choices and a more casual style to keep the readers engaged. For example, an excerpt from such an essay might look like this:

Have you ever been to a Thanksgiving dinner? If you have, do you remember what was on the table? What was your favorite dish there? Creating the staple dishes of a Thanksgiving menu is easier than one might think, and it can be fun too! From mashing potatoes to music to stirring cranberries in sugar, this process is memorable and delicious.

Note how the writers of both excerpts addressed their audience without specifically mentioning them. There is no need to call out the audience directly, but in choosing the appropriate tone and writing style based on the audience, the writer shows that they understand their audience's needs and expectations.

Prompt Audience - Key Takeaways

  • The audience of a piece of writing is the group of people who will read it.
  • Writers can often determine the intended audience of an essay from the prompt.
  • The audience for academic writing is typically experts who know a lot about the topic but can also be laypeople who do not.
  • When addressing experts, writers can use complex language and a formal tone, while they should use simpler word choices and explanations with a layperson audience.
  • Writers can encourage audience participation by including appropriate questions, connections, and anecdotes.

Frequently Asked Questions about Prompt Audience

To address an audience in an essay, reflect on the audience's knowledge of the topic and use appropriate word choices and tone. 

Ask rhetorical questions and encourage personal connections. 

Experts and laypeople 

The audience is the group of people who will read a text

An essay prompt is the text that tells a writer what to write an essay about 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

True or False: The real audience and intended audience are never the same.

Ture or False:When writing your paper, it's usually better to assume that your audience knows less than you.

Typically, the more specific your audience is the _____ the audience will be.


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