Writing Center

Write Like a Chameleon

By Taylor Roberts, Writing Tutor

Everyone possesses a unique writing style, but writing across genres requires a bit of adaptability on our part. We must decide how to best evoke a reaction from our readers, depending on the purpose and audience of the writing situation. By effectively picking and choosing the tools at our disposal from the different writing genres, we can write like chameleons to blend into the conventions our intended audience will expect of us.

For example, you wouldn't write a message on Twitter the same way you would write a research essay for your English class. After all, you only have 140 characters to persuade your followers to agree with your argument on Twitter, while in an essay you have pages and pages to fill with evidence proving your thesis about a piece of literature. Your English professor would probably cringe if you turned in an essay comprised of 140 characters full of grammatical errors, incomplete sentences and abbreviations, while your followers would certainly embrace the Twitter lingo.

This need for adaptability applies even when working in the same medium. In my recent summer internship, I found myself writing for two different blogs with very different subjects and audiences. The experience of writing for these two blogs-one about quilting and one about gluten-free recipes-reinforced for me that my choices as a writer must always be made to enhance the audience's experience and knowledge about their subject of interest.

The quilters expected loads of pictures with step-by-step directions to guide their sewing projects, whereas the audience for gluten-free recipes only needed a picture of the final creation to entice readers to try out the recipe. However, writing posts for the recipe site required me to include more written details about nutritional information to satisfy readers' questions about their dietary needs.

I'll admit the first few posts to these sites were a little awkward to write while I was adapting to the different demands of the genres. One thing that kept tripping me up when writing posts about quilting was the terminology that I had to use. For example, before this job I never knew that "feed dogs" are actually a part of a sewing machine. However, using this vocabulary was necessary to accurately relay information to that audience. Based on their comments, I know my readers appreciated my adoption of their word choice in my posts and appreciated the concise manner in which I delivered the directions of the project to them.

While I adhered to best practices for certain sites, after I got the hang of their style, tone and vocabulary, I was able to still have some freedom for self-expression. After a while, I found my voice embraced the quilters' quirky style, and I began adding my own personal twist to posts with some puns. These puns identified me as the specific speaker and gave my readers an incentive to choose my post over a more straightforward post that didn't try to entertain them. In the end, my blog-writing experiences taught me how to write like a chameleon with my own pop of color.

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