Someone just cringed, and it wasn’t me. Yes, I’m going to try and teach better judgment– and I know that this is a bad fucking idea. It should also be obvious that said classification of ideas tends to put a quiver in my loins. Ok, yeah, that might be a bit far… so I should probably–
I may revel in bombastic turns of phrase, but there is one thing I keep in mind when at the keyboard– or running my mouth. Who is on the receiving end? You don’t address a child the same way you do a peer. Sure, I know several kids that are smarter than most adults… but you’re not going to ask a fuckin’ kid the best way to get pegged. I’ll leave the obligatory joke to those of you snickering, because yes– I thought about putting five different ones here. Anyway, you get the point.
Age difference is the most basic way to illustrate where I’m going in this edition of Verb(al) Abuse. Consider who makes up your target audience; who are you trying to get to? Is it one person, or is it a group? What kind of people make up said group? It’s more to consider than most people realize, and taking the time to ponder these factors is crucial to being received as you desire.
Was that too flowery for you? If you want to get your way on the first try, think about who the fuck you’re talking to.
Take Verb(al) Abuse, for example. It’s for you, designed for a broad reader base. Some of you are reading this because you’re interested in picking up writing tips, as written by an easily-understood wiseass that can keep your attention. Some of you are here for the laughs, because you see why this shit’s necessary. See? No matter what: it’s for you.
When you park your ass at a keyboard, or get your thumbs limbered up, think about what you’re doing. Are you bullshitting with one close friend? Fuckin’ Thunderdome– you probably don’t even need to proofread that shit. Being a dick on social media? That can be touchy, just be ready for the potential for backlash. Don’t bitch if someone else is better at being a dick than you are. How about a coworker or a boss? I don’t care who you think you are at work, looking like a sporkfucker is a quick way to unnecessary bullshit. Make sure professional things sound fucking professional. Joking aside, read what you’ve written out loud– and your ears might tell you something that your eyes have missed.
Consider your audience, how smart are they? I’m not saying refrain from firing off $5 words. I’m saying you can’t be too sly with the dumb ones. If you don’t drop an ACME anvil on their head, they’ll miss your point. Yes, we all love to lob verbal hand grenades that don’t go off until later when Google gets checked– but keep it short if your audience seems like they’d hiss and recoil from the front steps of a library. Their attention span will be short, so you’ve got to be blunt.
Does all of this sound like a lot? You bet, and all of it is important. It’s part of establishing a thing called tone. Are you trying to keep a conversation going? Think about how to keep their attention. Will your alphabet soup turn away people because you said a bad word? Are they going to even care about what you’re saying? What is the potential for them to tune you out if you’re too long-winded (or perceived as boring/offensive)?
Tone aside, topic also matters. Again, I’m going to use age to make the easiest illustration. Most octogenarians wouldn’t give a flying fuck about your sick 360 no-scope even if jacked up on Viagra while skiing Scarface Mountain. Likewise, most teens aren’t too interested in retirement strategies. If your subject matter doesn’t seem to be in step with their potential interests, you’re going to have to be nothing short of sublime with your wording to keep their attention past your opening volley. Make no mistake, age is not the only dividing factor among audiences. It’ll serve you well to do a horrible thing called “think” before you reach out (no matter what your chosen medium of communication happens to be).
Before I sign off, let me leave you with one parting admonition. If you have any reason to believe that your audience is smarter than you are (or they have a better grasp of the subject matter being discussed)… by fuck, watch your ass.