Tone, Style, and Keeping Your Writing Appropriate for Your Audience

It’s a common cliche that “sex sells”, but that’s not always true when it comes to writing. One skill that is incredibly important for writers to learn is matching an appropriate tone or style to your intended audience. There are many variations of this skill, such as the difference between casual and formal voice, but today we’re going to look at something fairly simple: how to determine appropriate levels of potentially offensive content in your writing.

What Content is Inappropriate?

Of course, the easy answer to the question of what is appropriate or inappropriate content is simply to consider your audience. Try to imagine who will want to read your writing and what sort of things they would find appropriate. If you imagine that ten-year old children will be your primary audience, you will probably want to ease off the swear words and erotic content. However, if you are trying to write to twenty-year old schlock horror fans, they’re probably not going to be bothered too much by some scenes of bloody violence.

To break things down further, consider three categories: voice, age, and genre. In this case, “voice” refers to whether you are writing a formal or informal piece. As we previously discussed, formal writing is usual intended for a professional setting, such as an office, and things like swearing, lewd humor, or other inappropriate content is almost never acceptable.

When Can I Use Riskier Content?

Informal writing, such as poetry, prose, or casual communication, is quite a bit more flexible when it comes to this sort of content, which is where the other two categories come into play. First, consider the age of your intended audience. If necessary, compare them to the MPAA rating system. For example, the MPAA restricts PG-13 rated movies to one non-sexual use of the “f-word”. So, if you use the word more than that in your writing, it might be aimed at an older audience.

Finally, consider genre expectations. A thriller or horror novel is expected to be violent or disturbing in ways that a romance novel is not. Similarly, romance novels tend to have more erotic content then your average adventure story. One thing that can be helpful is to compare your work to something popular or well-known. Consider the content of the well-known work and how it compares to your own in regards to sex, violence, swearing, and other potentially offensive content. If they differ significantly, consider why and what effect this might have on how your work is received.

After all, there’s nothing wrong with challenging your audience, but it should always be done deliberately and with conscious intent. Don’t simply fill your writing with sex and violence for its own sake, but make it a function of your work. If you do that, you’ll see fewer complaints and much more praise for your efforts.

Unfortunately, all of this can be a bit easier said than done. That’s why next time we’ll be discussing specific techniques you can use to edit for content. Until then, stay safe and keep writing!

If you want to be sure your writing is safe for your intended audience, stop by our order page today.  We’ll be more than happy to have our team of international editors take a look and polish your article up for you.

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