Understanding Writing Situations

Considering Your Readers

Considering your readers involves attempting to understand what they bring to the conversation -- their knowledge of the issue, their needs and interests, and their values and beliefs. If you are writing a feature article about an Olympic slalom racer for Ski magazine, for example, you'll annoy your readers if you spend a lot of time defining the terms cap skis and sidecut instead of talking about training techniques and race strategies. On the other hand, if you're writing for Parade magazine, a national publication included in many Sunday newspapers, many of your readers (who will be much less familiar with skiing and ski technology than the readers of Skimagazine) are likely to be annoyed if you fail to define those terms. Similarly, providing a detailed history of the Internet will win you little favor from readers of a technical manual for Web server software, but will be of great value to readers of a book covering the development of the World Wide Web.

In a written conversation, you'll have much more time to consider how your readers will react to what you write. As you draft your contribution, consider not only how well it will match your readers' knowledge, but also their needs, interests, values, and beliefs. Consider as well their reasons -- or purposes -- for reading what you'll write.

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Introduction