Implied Audience

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Henry James
"The author makes his readers, just as he makes his characters" (Henry James). Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Definition

The term implied audience applies to readers or listeners imagined by a writer or speaker before and during the composition of a text. Also known as a textual audience, an implied reader, an implied auditor, and a fictional audience.

According to Chaim Perelman and L. Olbrechts-Tyteca in Rhetorique et Philosophie (1952), the writer predicts this audience's probable response to -- and understanding of -- a text.

Related to the concept of implied audience is the second persona.

See Examples and Observations below. See also:

 

Examples and Observations

  • "Just as the speaker need not be, and usually is not, identical with the author, so the implied audience is an element of the poem itself and does not necessarily coincide with a given chance reader."
    (Rebecca Price Parkin, "Alexander Pope's Use of the Implied Dramatic Speaker." College English, 1949)
  • "Just as we distinguish between a real rhetor and rhetorical persona, we also can distinguish between a real audience and an 'implied audience.' The 'implied audience' (like the rhetorical persona) is fictive because it is created by the text and exists only inside the symbolic world of the text."
    (Ann M. Gill and Karen Whedbee, "Rhetoric." Discourse as Structure and Process, ed. by Teun A. van Dijk. Sage, 1997)
  • "[T]exts not only address concrete, historically situated audiences; they sometimes issue invitations or solicitations for auditors and/or readers to adopt a certain perspective for reading or listening. . . . Jasinksi (1992) described how The Federalist Papers constructed a vision of an impartial and 'candid' audience that contained specific prescriptions for how the 'real' audience should evaluate the arguments being addressed during the constitutional ratification debate."
    (James Jasinski, Sourcebook on Rhetoric. Sage, 2001)
  • "Every reading of an argument yields an implied audience, and by this, I mean the audience on whom the claim is understood to be made and in terms of which the argumentation is supposed to develop. In a charitable reading, this implied audience is also the audience for whom the argument is persuasive, the audience which allows itself to be influenced by reasoning."
    (James Crosswhite, The Rhetoric of Reason: Writing and the Attractions of Argument. University of Wisconsin Press, 1996)
  • Readers and Mock Readers
    "I am arguing . . . that there are two readers distinguishable in every literary experience. First, there is the 'real' individual upon whose crossed knee rests the open volume, and whose personality is as complex and ultimately inexpressible as any dead poets. Second, there is the fictitious reader--I shall call him the 'mock reader' whose mask and costume the individual takes on in order to experience the language. The mock reader is an artifact, controlled, simplified, abstracted out of the chaos of day-to-day sensation.

    "The mock reader can probably be identified most obviously in subliterary genres crudely committed to persuasions, such as advertising and propaganda. We resist the blandishments of the copywriter just in so far as we refuse to become the mock reader his language invites us to become. Recognition of a violent disparity between ourself as mock reader and ourself as real person acting in a real world is the process by which we keep our money in our pockets. 'Does your toupee collect moths?' asks the toupee manufacturer, and we answer, 'Certainly not! My hair's my own. You're not talking to me, old boy; I'm wise to you.' Of course, we are not always so wise."
    (Walker Gibson, "Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers." College English, February 1950)
  • Real and Implied Readers
    "In Wayne Booth's terms, the 'implied author' of a text is the creator of an 'implied reader.' But one does not need to agree with Booth's conclusion that 'the most successful reading is the one in which the created selves, author, and reader, can find complete agreement' (Rhetoric of Fiction). On the contrary, the pleasure of the text may arise from the reader's refusal to play the role sketched out by the implied author. Viewed in this way, the rhetorical drama of the essay resides in the conflict between the conceptions of self and world that the reader brings to a text and the conceptions that the persona attempts to arouse."
    (Richard Nordquist, "Voices of the Modern Essay." University of Georgia, 1991)
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Nordquist, Richard. "Implied Audience." ThoughtCo, Apr. 20, 2017, thoughtco.com/implied-audience-composition-1691154. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, April 20). Implied Audience. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/implied-audience-composition-1691154 Nordquist, Richard. "Implied Audience." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/implied-audience-composition-1691154 (accessed November 24, 2017).