Audience and reader(ship)

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In their full original meanings, an audience was different from a readership.

  • An audience (from the Latin verb meaning 'to hear' [audire]) is a group of people that listens. (It can also mean a formal occasion where someone listens to requests and other material presented orally: a judge can hear a case in a formal audience, or a King can receive petitions when he grants an audience to the petitioner. See allso audience - auditor)
  • The readership of a given printed text is the collective noun for all the readers.

Since as long ago as at least 1855, the word audience has also been used in a transferred sense to mean the readers of a given text. English teachers in schools will tell their students to "think of your audience" when setting a written assignment and at least one Examination Board has used the word in this sense. It appears to be a well-established figure of speech, and one that is helpful in discussing style.

Nevertheless, it is an inaccurate usage with which some pedantic academics will find fault. Avoid it where you know that your audience readership will object to its use. (If you are writing for me, audience is acceptable.)

It should be obvious that all writers should consider their audience when writing.
(This is the usual expression of this thought by teachers of writing.)