Experience and Audience Awareness

A study by T. Gunn and C. Taylor (1990) details how a person's experience with the material they are working with contributes to their planning and writing strategies. While it was a study done of expert and novice secondary education English teachers, the data found benefits professional and technical writers as well. Gunn and Taylor (1990) write that expert writers were more likely to draw on their past knowledge of the material they were writing about than novice writers. Additionally, experts paid more attention to their audiences while novice writers usually were more concerned about sticking to a direct outline.

Expert Approach

A writer's experience in a certain field not only helps them plan, but also write to their audiences. In Dunn and Taylor's (1990) study, they found that the expert teachers' knowledge of literature helped them strategize how they were going to teach a particular story to their class. Experts drew on previous knowledge to help organize their writing; for instance, they thought about symbols, metaphors, and analogies that would help their students understand the story. As shown in a study by L. Best (1996), the key to making experience helpful in writing is not only having knowledge, but being able to apply it in many contexts. Experts also considered their students when planning and strategizing. An expert writer knows their audience is the most crucial piece of the puzzle to consider when writing any kind of work. Longo (1994) reports that experts address readers in the very structure of their writing, using connecting words and transitions that help a reader follow their arguments smoothly (p. 351). Dunn and Taylor (1990) also found that expert teachers in their study knew students' preferences and were able to integrate their knowledge of students, content, strategies, and activities into early planning (p.13).

Novice Approach

Taylor and Dunn (1990) found that novices categorize their writing according to surface features in the problem (p.5). They stick to what they know and do not deviate from their outline of information. They also do not have extensive knowledge to draw upon when strategizing because they had not been in the field for long. Best (1996) also found that novice writers had "clusters of decontexualized knowledge" that they could not apply well to each new writing task (p. 10). Experience teaches writers how to use what they know in different situations, rather than relying on formulaic writing. Novice writers also do not give much thought to audiences. In a study of expert-novice differences in writing proposals, Longo (1994) says novices try to persuade their audiences by brute force and "explicit 'selling' words" rather than use logic to lead them to a conclusion (p. 351).


  • Use previous knowledge. Use any previous knowledge available to help understand the context of the situation and how an audience will react to it.
  • Know your audience. Know audiences' preferences and background in order to make material easier to comprehend.
  • Practice context. Writers should practice taking general grammar and writing strategies and applying them in different contexts. This forces writers to prove they know the principle of the rules, not just how to use a rule in one place.