A 2021 study in Behavior Research Methods reported that people change their writing style to impress their audience. Research suggested this is based on whatever group identity is influencing them at the moment. “We did not assess whether or not a person has an identity, but only the probability that a particular identity is salient in a specific situation. “ Although this study focused on people who identify as feminists or parents, it raised an interesting question for anyone who writes as part of their work. Several writers provided their input on this question.
Stephan Baldwin, writer and founder of AssistedLivingCenter.com, says his main goal in writing is to offer solutions to an audience's pain points. "I make sure that the words and language I use will connect and resonate with my readers and that I am able to earn their trust. So my writing style differs depending on who my readers are, while still maintaining my identity as a marketing specialist whose aim is to serve the community.”
Anatolii Ulitovskyi, digital marketer and founder of SEOtools.TV offers a similar perspective. He too wants to share the most value possible so he allows his audience to guide what he writes. “I post a lot on LinkedIn and analyze how people react. My primary goal is to engage the audience and higher engagement provides more exposure. That's why I've changed my writing styles many times.”
Others have shifted their mindsets about writing over time. When writer Suzanne Wylde started in her field, she was torn between wanting to impress peers and being accessible to the general public. “When I communicate now,” said Wylde, “I remember that I am there to serve people, not to bolster my status. I try to write simply and in a friendly way so there is as little resistance to absorbing information as possible.”
Because of shifting influences, Wylde thinks we need a line between giving voice to something that needs to be expressed on behalf of a group versus pandering to a group's opinions. She noted, “The first may stem more from a sense of courage and belief and the latter from a lack of identity or certainty of one's own beliefs.”
“Writing style can reflect emotions, experiences, and the current life situation,” said Maciej Duszynski, Content Team Leader at Tidio Chatbots. He believes that when people identify with a particular group, there’s a tendency to follow the rules of that group. But he doesn’t see that as a negative. “It may broaden our minds and help us gain knowledge from an entirely new area, affecting our writing style,” he added.
While group identity may not have a significant impact on individual identity, ideology will change which can influence communication. “This truly reflects in writing, said Hilda Wong, Founder of Content Dog. “A writer may or may not write in a specific way to influence people if there is no agenda. But if there is an agenda based on some ideology, the writer will try to influence readers. The group identity alone is not capable enough to influence the writing, but if the ideology changes, it will influence the writing style.”
Some writers may shift intentionally to engage or appeal to an audience; for others, it’s subconscious. “many writers would argue that their style remains constant regardless of their audience; but, a lot of these changes are so subtle that they might go unnoticed”, said Nathan Murphy, co-founder of QuizBreaker.
But Jeff Dawson, with LDDJ Enterprises Publishing, has a strong opinion about holding on to your identity regardless of what you are writing.“ I write for the characters, subject matter and topic of choice, whether it’s popular or not. If people want to constantly write for the winds, then they have lost their own identity and learn nothing of themselves. They will never form a solid voice and become lost when the winds calm down and they can no longer relate to those surrounding them.” Author Damian Birkel tends to agree; “When writing, regardless of topic, stay true to yourself; otherwise you’ll come across as inauthentic.”