8.3 Considering how all choices made in an argument affect the audience

8 min readjanuary 21, 2023



AP English Language ✍🏽

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Hi! This is topic 3 of Unit 8. Here, we’ll be looking at how your choices as a writer impact your credibility, persuasiveness, and overall quality of argument. The choices we’ll discuss will sound very familiar, since we’ve discussed all of them in past study guides. Syntax and diction (as seen in guide 8.2), organization, and presentation of evidence are all choices you will have to make, while keeping in mind your audience. Read on for more details!

Role of Audience in Writing

First, let’s go over the role that the audience plays during the writing process. A letter you’d write to your grandma thanking her for a Christmas gift is very different from an email you’d write to a teacher, right? If you would make different writing choices for each of those two scenarios, then you already know a little bit about how crucial the audience’s perspective, context and needs are. Let’s go into this in greater depth.

Who’s My Audience?

In order to take audience into account, you first have to identify who your audience is. Depending on the context, that could be a lot of different people. Here are some examples:
  1. Academic Audience: This audience is typically composed of professors, experts, and other professionals in the field of study being discussed. They are likely to be highly knowledgeable on the topic and expect to be presented with facts and research-based evidence.
  2. General Audience: This audience is composed of people who may not be familiar with the topic being discussed. They are likely to be curious and open-minded but may not understand the technical jargon associated with the topic.
  3. Interested Audience: This audience is composed of people who have a personal interest in the topic. They may have some knowledge of the subject but are more likely to be more emotionally invested in the topic.
  4. Skeptical Audience: This audience is composed of people who may not be familiar with the topic but are skeptical of the claims being made. They may require more evidence and research-based evidence before accepting the argument being presented.
Now, the above audiences are probably not who you’re writing for in your AP Lang class. The audiences within your AP Lang class probably look more like this:
  1. Teacher Audience: The teacher is the primary audience for a high schooler in an English class. The teacher will be evaluating the essay for its quality, style, and content.
  2. Peer Audience: The peers in the class are also a potential audience for an essay. They can provide feedback and constructive criticism.
  3. Self Audience: The writer should also consider him/herself as an audience when writing an essay. The essay should reflect the writer’s own ideas and thoughts.
  4. General Audience: The general audience is composed of the public. This audience may not be familiar with the topic or the technical jargon associated with it. This audience may require more explanation and evidence-based arguments.
Sometimes, you may even have multiple audiences. For instance, if you’re writing for a school presentation, then the audience might be your teacher and peers. If it's for a research class where you have mentors, then it could be experts in the field. But if it's for your school newspaper or website, it could be anyone from the general public, including peers. 
No matter who the audience is, you should adjust your language and content to them. We’ll discuss that in the next section.

Why Does My Audience Matter?

So, you know how to identify your audience. Next is understanding why they matter. It’s important not to solely focus on the fact that you’re the writer, but to also think about the views, contexts, and needs of your readers. Every audience is different and constantly changing, so it's necessary to select facts, structure, and language that will be most effective. 
When making an argument, it is important to consider how all of the choices being made will affect the audience personally. Taking into account the personal implications of the decisions being made can help to more effectively engage the audience and drive action. It’s important to think about what the audience can relate to and what will make them feel heard and understood. In AP Lang, your audience is usually your teacher and/or your peers. They are the ones judging and grading your work. Thus, it’s ideal to ensure your argument resonates with them, that they’re able to sympathize with your main points.

Writer Choices

Now, we can get into all the various choices you need to make, with pointers on how to make them.

Word Choice Based on Audience

When writing for an AP English class, it's important to use the right words for your audience. Your readers are probably familiar with more sophisticated language and concepts, so you should try to use advanced words and phrases that show off your understanding of the topic.
For example, when discussing a literary work, you might use words such as "anaphora," "onomatopoeia," "allegory," or "irony." If you are discussing social and political issues, you can utilize words such as "adversarial," "disenfranchisement," or "equity." If you are engaging in an argumentative essay, you can use words such as "fallacy," "conjecture," or "invective."
Using advanced words and concepts reflects your knowledge and understanding of the material. Furthermore, using the correct vocabulary and phrasing can help you make your argument points more clearly and effectively. 
It is important to remember to not overdo complex diction, however; using too many complex words or concepts can distract from your message and confuse your audience. Keep complex diction relevant to your argument.

Syntax Based on Audience

When it comes to choosing the right syntax for an AP English class, you need to consider your audience. Not only do you need to choose words and phrases that are accurate and appropriate for the context, but you also need to make sure that your syntax is engaging and appropriate for your audience.
For example, if you’re discussing a classic novel with your AP English teacher, you’ll want to stick to formal language and proper grammar. Avoid slang, abbreviations, and casual language that could be distracting or confusing. Instead, opt for more precise language and sentence structures to make sure your points are clear.
Alternatively, if you’re writing an in-class essay about an issue you’re passionate about, you have a bit more leeway. Here, you can use more conversational language and even a bit of slang to make sure your essay is as engaging and persuasive as possible. Just make sure it’s still understandable and appropriate for the setting.
Finally, if you’re presenting in front of the class, you want to make sure your syntax is engaging and welcoming. Again, avoid slang and abbreviations, but you can use simpler language to make sure your audience understands your points. You can even use rhetorical devices to make your presentation more interesting and memorable.
No matter what you’re writing or presenting in an AP English class, you need to consider your audience and choose the right syntax. Use formal language and proper grammar when discussing traditional texts and topics, and feel free to use more conversational language and rhetorical devices when presenting or writing about topics you’re passionate about. This way, you’ll ensure that your ideas are communicated effectively and your audience will be engaged.

Essay Structure/Organization Based on Audience

Depending on the purpose of the essay and the expectations of the class, the organization of your essay should be tailored to the audience. Here are some examples of how to organize your essay based on the audience.
For a Teacher: When writing an essay for a teacher, it is important to clearly define the purpose of the essay and then to structure the essay accordingly. Here are some tips, broken down into steps:
  1. Begin with a clear introduction: Make sure to clearly introduce the topic of your essay and provide an overview of the main points you will be discussing.
  2. Provide logical transitions between main points: Use logical transitions between each main point of your essay in order to ensure your essay flows logically.
  3. Use specific evidence and examples: Support each of your main points with specific evidence and examples.
  4. Conclude with a summary: Summarize your main points in the conclusion, and leave your reader with a clear understanding of your argument.
  5. Check for errors: Make sure to read through your essay and check for any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors.
By following these tips, you can ensure your essay is well-organized and clear for your teacher. This will make it easier for your teacher to understand your argument, and will also make it easier to give you feedback.
For a Classmate: When writing an essay for a classmate, there’s slightly more leeway. You may, depending on the specific expectations of the writing assignment, write in a more informal and casual tone. The structure of the essay should focus on the main points and provide evidence to support the main points. The introduction should contain a brief explanation of the main points and a brief overview of the evidence that will be presented. The body should provide the evidence in an easy to understand manner. Finally, end your essay with a strong conclusion that summarizes your main points and brings your essay to a close. This will help your classmate remember the main points you're trying to make, and also give them a sense of closure. 
No matter the audience, it is important to provide a clear and well-organized essay. You want the reader to know what’s coming up next, not sit in confusion as you aimlessly bounce between ideas. By taking the time to consider the audience before you begin writing, you can optimize your essay’s organization.

Evidence Based on Audience

When writing an essay for an AP Lang class, it is important to think about who your audience is and choose evidence that appeals to them.
If you are writing to your peers, you might consider using a more informal tone, and evidence that relates to common experiences such as movies or popular books. This type of evidence can help establish a connection with the reader and make your argument more convincing. On the other hand, if you are writing to a more academic audience (like a teacher_, you should use evidence from scholarly articles or books. This will show that you have done your research and understand the topic.
All in all, make sure to choose evidence that matches their interests, beliefs, and values. This will help your argument be both relevant and convincing.

Impact of Making the Best Choices

There are no “right” choices in writing, because of how many differences there can be in audience. Not all teachers are the same, not all classmates are the same, etc. But if you identify the best possible choices, you can greatly improve your writing.
  • Using proper syntax and grammar can help ensure that your points are conveyed accurately.
  • Choosing the right words and phrases to use (diction) can help to emphasize your ideas and make your writing more effective.
  • Creating an organized structure for your essay can help to ensure that your points are presented in a logical order.
  • Using accurate evidence to support your points will help to make your arguments more convincing.


Audience plays an important role during the writing process. Knowing who your audience is and recognizing their needs and perspective is essential for making the best writing choices. You should consider the right syntax and diction, essay structure, and evidence that will be most effective for the audience you’re writing for. Keep these choices in mind the next time you write an essay!
Browse Study Guides By Unit
🤔Exam Skills
🥇Unit 1 – Claims, Reasoning, & Evidence
🗂️Unit 2 – Organizing Information for a Specific Audience
👀Unit 3 – Perspectives & How Arguments Relate
🔚Unit 4 – How writers develop arguments, intros, & conclusions
🎀Unit 5 – How a writer brings all parts of an argument together
👥Unit 6 – Position, Perspective, & Bias
🥊Unit 7 – Successful & Unsuccessful Arguments
😎Unit 8 – Stylistic Choices
😈Unit 9 – Developing a Complex Argument
📚Study Tools

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