What do they want to hear?


October 29, 2020 by Kenneth Fisher

I was helping my 16yo write his first college essay the other day. He’s always struggled a bit with writing essays so this isn’t an easy task. As I’m going over what he’s written so far I gave him a piece of advice I’d never thought of before. When writing an essay the first thing you need to ask yourself is What do they want to hear? I told him to read the essay prompt Write about an event in your life. and then expand on that. It’s a college essay so writing about how the event he picked made him want to live life to it’s fullest and go join a circus probably isn’t going to help.

As I thought about this I realized just how far reaching this concept is. When I write a blog post, I come up with a concept and then have to think of what do the people reading it want to get out of it. In any form of communication, you need to read the prompt and then figure out what they really want.

  • A blog post (as I mentioned above) has a target audience. And make no mistake, you are always going to be part of your target audience. What does that audience want? Do they want a simple how to? A complex, in depth discussion of a problem? The answer can, and probably will, change post by post.
  • Documentation. Same as a blog post really.
  • Any technical request. It could be anything from a new database, an SSIS package, a stored procedure, view etc. You need to figure out not just what they’ve asked for but what do they want, and what do they need.

Know your audience. Make sure your output fits the audience.

3 thoughts on “What do they want to hear?

  1. Jeff Moden says:

    Heh… you wrote…
    “Know your audience. Make sure your output fits the audience.”

    Now you know why I usually write at the 5th grade level. 😀

    On the more serious side, you’re pretty much spot on with this notion. Adding simple things like the proper order of revelation, Titles for sections and subsections, adding meaningful graphics, keeping paragraphs reasonably short and including well formatted, documented code and results can really help a whole lot, as well.

  2. Jeff Moden says:

    p.s. And thanks for this article. It’s short and sweet, just like the subject. Nicely done.

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