Be the Hero That Readers Need


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

April 29, 2020 

Be the Hero That Readers Need

“I need a hero. I'm holding out for a hero ’til the morning light.”

—Bonnie Tyler

Heroes don’t act selfishly, but selflessly.

Business writers should do the same, focusing not on their own needs but on readers’ needs. To succeed as a business writer, you should climb out of your world and into your readers’ world.

How can I climb into my readers’ world?

Think about what readers care about and imagine yourself in their shoes. Take their perspective.

Check out the difference between a writer-focused paragraph and a reader-focused one:

Writer Focused

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Reader Focused

On Friday the 13th, you said good-bye to your students, thinking you’d be back in class the next Monday. Then the pandemic hit, and on a dime you had to figure out how to teach from a distance—and not just teach, but also connect on a human level. We’re here to help you. Throughout the pandemic, you can use any of our online writing units for free with your students.

Notice how often the writer-focused paragraph uses we (6 times) and you (0 times). It overflows with self-congratulations, like “the first ones to respond” and “generously offer” and “teach writing better than anyone” and “unprecedented offer.”

Now notice how often the reader-focused paragraph uses we (1 time) and some form of you (7 times). This paragraph shows an understanding of readers’ perspectives, speaking to their experience and needs.

You can go one step further by connecting your ideas to specific reader needs.

How can I connect to specific reader needs?

Use Maslow’s Hierarchy, which displays needs that all humans have. At the lowest level are survival needs such as food, clothing, and shelter—needs that must be met before the next level becomes important.

Maslow's Pyramid of Needs

Scan the hierarchy and select a specific need that readers have. Then write a sentence that connects your ideas to the need:

Employment: You can use these online writing resources to help your students create authentic writing forms and complete assignments as part of your Google Classroom workflow.

Then select another need and write a sentence that connects your ideas:

Problem-Solving: These intuitive writing units take the guesswork out of distance education, letting you spend your time on teaching and connecting from a distance.

When you focus on readers’ needs, you quickly become the hero they’ve been waiting for.


Play the Editor!

Read the following writer-focused paragraph. Rework it to make it reader focused, shifting from we voice to you voice. Also, you can select one or more needs from Maslow’s Hierarchy and write sentences that connect to those needs.

We offer free online units that teach narrative, explanatory, and persuasive writing. We lead students through each step of the writing process, from prewriting through drafting to revising and editing. Our materials have topped the market for 40 years because of their ease of use and excellent instruction. We haven’t found a competitor who can match up to our standard of clarity, especially for free!


Get More Support

Check out the Write for Business Guide and past eTips for more ways to connect to readers’ needs.


Editor’s Recommendation

Here is a sample reader-focused rewrite, including a new sentence focused on the need of achievement:

You’ll find free online units that teach narrative, explanatory, and persuasive writing. Each unit leads your students through the steps of the writing process, from prewriting through drafting to revising and editing. You’ll discover how easy these materials are to use, and you’ll know your students are getting excellent instruction based on 40 years of research into writing. Help your students and yourself succeed in distance education. Get these powerful resources!