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What makes a piece of writing interesting to readers of all ages?

Aug 28, 2013 - Posted to  Writing in General
Traditionally books, essays, and other forms of writing are usually separated by age-for example, the sections you'll find set up in bookstores or the local library, are usually categorized into children, young adult, and adult sections. And likewise most publications and websites (with essays, blogs articles, or other interesting reads) are either targeted towards one of the three. Though some exceptions do occur; material targeted towards young adults and adults and the news. The news, even if not frequented by children or teens quite often, is still usually familiar to school-aged children who may use news articles in the classroom or with school projects.
And even with this normal separation of material, in some situations the need may arise to write a comprehensive piece for all ages. One example could be to ensure that a particular message reaches a wide range of people (for instance children, teens, and adults with low reading levels). Or to simply make reading more enjoyable for parents or teachers that usually find themselves reading to children. Also it could just be for personal reasons or economic incentives. Considering the many adults that also enjoy children's or young adults books, a writer may expect to sell more if their writing is appropriate and engaging for several age groups, and not just one.

Writing for all ages-useful tidbits

So how do you make a piece of writing interesting for everyone?

Well good writing is good writing-regardless of the age group that it is targeted towards. A book that is dissatisfying to a 12 year-old, not because of personal preference, but simply because it is poorly put together, will probably be equally dis-satisfying for any adult as well. So the first piece of advice is to simply strive to put together a well-crafted composition; something that requires a bit of adequate research, time investment, and creativity. And in addition to those prerequisites, a few other things may be helpful as well.

#1 Choose an interesting topic that doesn't cater to a particular niche

Sometimes people may get pigeon-toed into writing with a specific group in mind. Its definitely hard to avoid considering the many special-interest publications and articles floating around coffee shops. Not to mention that we all have our own memberships and associations that we may be very connected with-which are usually 'safety zones' for our writing. Though if writing for a broader audience it's probably better to choose topics that are focused more towards life experiences- feelings, emotions, triumphs-or things that we all pretty much can relate to. Rather than experiences or activities specific to certain sub-groups, communities, or cultures.

#2 Craft a catchy introduction

Who doesn't like a good hook? If one thing is common to both writing for the young and old, is that most engaging works will include a catchy one-liner in the introduction. Or not only that, but also a compelling scene, noteworthy quote, or anything that will entice the reader enough to continue down the page. This type of engagement is extended to all forms of writing whether its a blog article, creative non-fiction, or news article. A good introduction should seal the deal.

#3 Put direct quotes to work

When considering ways to liven up a piece of writing, or disrupt the monotony of prose, the insertion of dialogue or a direct quote is usually a preferred method for many writers and students alike. A break for a short conversation in a story or an authoritative voice to help prove a point in an essay is something that can be appreciated by several age groups-from children to adults. Long conversations or comments are usually never appropriate in writing, for grown-ups, or anyone else, so aiming for a brief and easy to understand quote or conversation should be perfectly suitable for a diverse audience.

#4 Make use of lively expressions and figurative language

As mentioned earlier, in most cases if you work hard to develop a great piece of writing, there is little else you need to do to make it appropriate for all age groups. And one of the main techniques to crafting a great piece of writing is effectively utilizing figurative language. Figurative language can do wonders! Younger readers will definitely appreciate a good simile or metaphor here and there, that they can really understand and visualize; "The guilt weighed on him like 1,000 ton man", while adults can equally appreciate the effort and meaning intended by the sentence (even if kids will have more fun with it!).

#5 Provide simple but stimulating vocabulary

The big 'V' word, vocabulary-now this is where age counts! So you can assume that it would be pretty difficult to cater the vocabulary in your writing for any and everyone; but the good news is that the idea is not to aim for the impossible but to find a reasonable middle ground.

So why not middle school?

Since most people probably hover around a middle school reading level anyway (or slightly higher than that), it would be wise to use vocabulary that can gratify the more independent reading ages of children (may be around 5th or 6th grade) while also ensuring that adults are also quite stimulated. *This does leave out very young readers but in most cases their reading material is more pre-selected for them, and may not be a target audience for you in any event.
And if you feel a little uneasy about aiming for a lower vocabulary, believe it or not some middle school words are pretty tough-most newspapers and magazines are only written at about an 8th or 9th grade reading level, and many adults have trouble with them! So you can imagine that the middle school vocabulary list is pretty comprehensive and definitely sufficient for most compositions.

Final tips

In addition to the tips mentioned above, other general advices to consider when writing for a wide audience are to provide universal themes, relatable characters and a mix of complex and simple conflicts. A perceptive eye can easily pinpoint the complex conflicts and struggles present in some of the most elementary children's text. Therefore when considering your overall message or theme in writing its okay to choose something that some people can relate to on a very basic level while others may interpret and dissolve on a more in-depth or compound level.
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