Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.3I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, (Philippians 1:2-5 NIV)Paul considered his writing a partnership his readers. He didn’t consider himself better than his target audience. He didn’t write “down” to them. In effect, he was saying, “Hey, we’re all in this life together.” Then he shared what he had learned in order to help someone else.
Whether writing fiction or non-fiction, it is important to treat your readers with respect. Give them credit for understanding what you write. Don’t over-explain what should be obvious and don’t beat them up with the moral message or theme of your work. When I come across a passage in a book where the author explains to me what they mean, I feel insulted that they didn’t think I was smart enough to “get it.” As an author, if I feel the need to explain something I wrote, perhaps I need to rewrite it.
Another way that authors tend to write down to their readers is with finger pointing. When an author continually tells a reader what “the reader” should do, it can come across as preachy. Be careful of the word “you.” Try substituting “I” or “we” when possible. By pointing out our faults and relating with the reader, we enter into a partnership with them.
Below is an example of how Paul partnered himself with his readers. Notice how he describes his own desires, shortcomings, and thoughts. He then gives advice to the reader, but does so by including himself needy of the instructions he gives them.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.In partnering with our readers, we can help them identify with us, take our message in a non-preachy fashion, and apply spiritual truths that God has laid on our hearts.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. (Philippians 3:10:16 NIV)
Partnership with Readers / © 2010 Judy Vandiver