300 Days of Better Writing

September 17, 2013

Know your secondary audience.


The immediate recipient of your document is your primary audience. Your secondary audience receives the document from the primary audience. In many cases, the document is not transferred to the secondary audience—only the information is passed on.

For example, if you write a financial analysis of a new program, your primary audience may be your supervisor or contracting agent. If that person takes specific information from the report and uses it to create his or her own report, or if that person passes on the document to another person, then the document or information moves from the primary to the secondary audience.

For example, if you write a fiction book, the person who buys the book is the primary audience. However, if that person passes the book on to another person, or if the book is read with a child or another person, then the child or other person is the secondary audience.

Why is this important? Nearly every document or manuscript will have a secondary audience. The needs of that person may be different than the needs of the primary audience. To ensure the effectiveness of your writing (or the widest distribution of the content), identify the secondary audience and consider that person’s needs. You will want to address both the primary and secondary audiences’ needs.


This is the strategy for day 114 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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April 5, 2013

Quote books in the present tense and writers in the past tense.


When you take a quote from a book, you have to decide whether you are attributing the quoted material to the author or the book.

If you are attributing a quote to a book, use the present tense. Because the information is always present (i.e., always available right now), use present tense verbs, such as states, notes, claims, and describes. For example, you may write the following:

“The book Ten Habits of Unhappy People claims that the main reason for disappointment is a lack of communication.”

On the other hand, if you are attributing a quote to the author, use the past tense. Because the author wrote the information at a specific time in the past, use a past tense verb, such as stated, noted, claimed, described, and wrote. For example, you may write the following:

“James Patterson, author of Ten Habits of Unhappy People, wrote that the main reason for disappointment is a lack of communication.”


This is the strategy for day 41 in 300 Days of Better Writing, available at Hostile Editing in PDF, Kindle, and paperback formats.

For a sample of 300 Days of Better Writing and other books by Precise Edit, download the free ebook.

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