Is the average reader a stereotype?

The average reader. The one person a writer is supposed to communicate to who represents the entire audience’s qualities and problems. Are they a stereotype? And did the writer have to stereotype to create them?

They’re all like that

Writers use the average reader to get a deeper insight into their target audience, which can sometimes be a list of banal things like age, gender and hobbies. The average reader is supposed to be the walking embodiment of the target audience, representing all their qualities and problems.

The writer then writes to this average reader like a one-on-one conversation, that’s actually being read by lots of people. Or something like that. It’s a convenient way for the writer to address and appeal to lots of people.

But by using the details of one to appeal to many, the writer is assuming their readers are all like that one person. They’ve stereotyped.

Some degree of truth

There’s a statistic somewhere that says a potential reader is 33% more likely to become invested if they can see themselves reflected in your writing or if your writing addresses their problems (annoyingly I can’t remember where I found this).

If a reader is mesmerised by the writer’s copy, then they obviously see themself reflected in it in some way. There’s a degree of truth to the stereotype, and that degree could be big or small.

The writer had to find out about that one reader, and lots of others. They then took the qualities of all these readers and condensed them into one walking, talking person. So there’s a chance the quality or problem the copy is addressing is only a small part of that one reader’s life. It does not define them entirely.

The writer has created a stereotype, but it’s being used to appeal to lots of people with different qualities who will see a different part of themselves in that stereotype.

Creating an average reader involves stereotyping, but the stereotype reflects different segments of lots of people. The writer’s job becomes easier, and there’s no harm done. I hope.

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