Digital Writing and Diversity of Audience

internet users around the world
internet users around the world (Photo credit: Septem Trionis)

In my early days of blogging, I was often overwhelmed by a sense of wonder at how far my writing traveled. When I saw the names of all those countries listed on the stats page about where people were reading my blog from and sending me heartwarming comments, I was amazed. I expressed my new-found wonder in a post called My Blog Audience where many readers shared similar feelings about their writing.

 As I progressed with my blog through the months, I got more and more used to the fact that while it was my day, my reader could be reading at night. While it was summer where I was, my reader could be shaking off snow from his boots somewhere. While the country I was in might be at peace or engaged in a distant war, my reader might be not be in such fortunate circumstances.

Getting used to the novelty of an experience is inevitable but it can be very dangerous for one’s writing. Leaving aside other considerations where a sense of wonder aids the writing process in today’s digital age, failure to remember the diversity of your readers and their backgrounds can take away important nuances from your writing and prevent it from reaching its potential for readers.

But here is a paradox. As a writer you must be comfortable showing who you are or where you’re coming from or what your own concerns are because there is nothing so boring as a colourless, generic piece of writing. The writer’s identity remains important in digital spaces while the potential reader’s identity needs to be given more of a free range than earlier in our digital age.

As far as the readers are concerned, the writer can neither assume they are just like them or the opposite of who they are. One way of developing depth in one’s writing is to always maintain nuances whereby one is able to appeal to and address a vast range of readers keeping in mind that they may span the entire spectrum of the whole range of exactly same to completely different and everything in between.

Even if one is addressing a niche audience, the internet has unlocked a huge potential readership so that we are able to reach people we may not have been able to reach before. We may find like-mindedness in unlikely places despite the fact that those people may eat a different cuisine or dress in a different way.

In fact, it is quite possible that you may find someone at the other end of the globe who understands what you’re trying to say far better than someone who is right here. So why not welcome them as readers?

Yet, as we keep those other readers in mind, we might need to do a few things differently in our compositions. Because of the vast geographical and cultural differences of people reading our works, we must examine our assumptions before putting them out there and either explain them or defend them but not assume they are truths universally acknowledged.

Conveying background information about common events, beliefs or social mores are crucial for understanding. Too much information may lead to boredom while too little will make some readers scratch their heads. Biases and perspectives not obvious to the writer may need to be clarified.  

Idioms and turns of phrase may not get across the global divide. It’s not just the colourful phrases accepted in the standard English of some countries such as “break a leg” or “tell me about it” that has potential for misinterpretation. There can be local turns of phrase originating perhaps in a misuse of language (such as “I freaked out all night” meaning “I partied all night” in Bangalore–something I recently encountered and am still not too sure of –part of a lingo not standard in Indian English) that can be puzzling. Yet, getting rid of all idioms from a piece will surely herald the death of language and composition and everything writers stand for.

Details we mention in our writing might also suffer a change in significance as its travels the internet. Someone I describe as dark skinned may not be visualized in the same way by the reader from another geographical location. My descriptions of heat or cold in a bitter winter in the temperate zone may be felt differently by a reader reading in the tropics. My description of an exotic flower may not be exotic at all to the reader while an analogy I provide to explain something may simply have to be guessed at by whoever is reading my piece. (I remember the description of the movement of a propeller in a turbo jet in a BBC educational show for kids as being similar to the movement of water in   a dishwasher puzzled my then six year old nephew in Calcutta very much.)

Perhaps some of these changes and miscommunications are inevitable. In our global world, perhaps some of these gaps in understanding will give rise to new kinds of sense perceptions through language. Perhaps the world will come so close together soon that we will all delve into the same sources and methods of understanding.

But until then, we might be better off being aware of differences and informing our writing based on a sense of the diversity of our readers.

21 thoughts on “Digital Writing and Diversity of Audience”

  1. I know what you mean! I’m still new to blogging, and it’s such a buzz when people from around the world see my blog. Hmm, I hope what I mean by ‘a buzz’ is clear!


  2. You bring up some great points and questions in this article. How should the global audience made possible by blogging affect our use of language and the amount of background information required to get our message across. Tough balance.


  3. Hmm, yes, as a new blogger, I find myself acutely aware of being a spec on the globe. I know as I write that in many senses I am lucky and others may not be. I try not to let this self-consciousness hamper my writing, but, as you point out, we should have our audience – however diverse – in mind as we write.


  4. A great post – I remember being amazed the 1st time I discovered the map on Stats and saw how far away some of my readers were. It’s an Exciting Global Community that we are living in now in the 21st Century! A dream for most writers!


  5. You make a good point. On the other hand, one of the things a reader enjoys by opening a blog from another part of the country, or the world, is hearing our own idioms, our own sense of place and time because of who and where we are. In that way, I like to stay true to what I think, how I act, what I write about, so others can feel what I experience, and learn perhaps a new way of looking or approaching things, just by reading my little take on a subject.


  6. It is definitely an adventure if its out traveling around the world, or traveling around in your own head, Writing is the best adventure, it is wherever you want to go. It’s cool you are a traveler, I envy you.


  7. While being conscious of where our readers are from and how our writing can be (mis)interpreted, I’d like to think that how culture and language intertwine is another way of showcasing global diversity — and through all that, we can all still connect on some level. Isn’t language such a beautiful morphing creature?


  8. You have more than a few profound sentences here. I hope to teach a class on creative writing in the digital age this fall and I will make a note to bookmark this page…..I’m curious if Antarctica ever shows up on the list of visitors. That’s the only continent not represented in my list!

    I do have to say that I would probably lean toward retaining the flavor of culture and place even if it’s not completely understood. That’s how new perspectives shed light on a common experience.


  9. I seem to have attracted a readership from all corners of the globe. I like to think that there’s something about what I’m writing on my blog, idioms and colloquialisms and all, that’s made them come back for more. This has been yet another excellent post from you, more food for thought.


  10. I completely relate to this post as a blogger of sometimes ethnic and niche (Jewish) themes. I think in essence, we all are more similar to each other than different- as human beings. It’s a matter of a blogger tapping into the real stuff that most of my readership – and in general people can relate to. I do struggle a bit – and try to keep a balance. On the one hand, I deliberately don’t hide the Jewish stuff in my writing (if it fits to a post) because that is who I am. – that’s the flavor of my blog On the other hand, I keep in mind that others may be scratching their heads at mentions of cultural stuff – so I try to stay away from unnecessary cultural details (or sneak in an explanation..) It’s always a balance. I’m so glad you brought this up. Thank you.


  11. How true. I have run into a bit of bother occasionally with my Irish spoken english! Readers are good to question it too which helps by allowing me to clarify and also to learn for the future.


  12. Perspective is a great thing in writing, you nailed it on the head. Then again, sometimes that’s why I read. I want someone else’s perspective on how they view things from a different culture.


  13. I think you just “skated down a razor blade” with that topic. That’s a really good point to think on. I often wonder who might be misunderstanding my words, especially when I write about something regionally specific. Definitely a delicate balance.


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