Casual vs. Formal Writing? Know Your Audience!

by Travis Heermann on March 19, 2009

Who wouldn’t like to sit around home and work in pajamas, go to work in blue jeans and a T-shirt, and wear fuzzy slippers around the office? If you’re a freelancer, you might get to do just that, but most of us don’t have that luxury. Nevertheless, in recent decades, many workplaces have relaxed dress standards from the days of suit-and-tie or tailored dress; maybe your workplace has Casual Friday every day. Our culture as a whole has become generally more casual, so it’s easy to fall into writing traps that are simply too casual for the situation.

In the world of today’s business, can you afford to have your writing make you look less than professional? Many people, particularly those raised on emails and text messaging, make the mistake of writing in a style that is too casual for their target audience. Whether the job is copywriting or business communication, it literally pays to make sure you tailor your message carefully.

When you sit down to write anything, whether it’s an email, a newsletter, a sales letter, a press release, etc., it is critical to be aware of a variety of characteristics about who is going to read that communication.  Among those characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Family
  • Generation
  • Interests
  • Values
  • Social class/income
  • Occupation/profession

More on why those characteristics are important is coming soon.  In the meantime, think about the level of formality in your writing and whether your current style of communication is the most effective and appropriate.

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