Understanding Writing Situations

A Social Model of Writing

Models are useful tools for discussing complex concepts. The model discussed in this guide considers the relationships among writers, readers, and texts. Although it can't fully predict the complexities of a specific writing situation, they can help writers understand the general principles that shape those situations.

This model is based on three observations. First, a text may serve as the only point of contact between a reader and writer, particularly when writers are separated by time and distance. Second, texts cannot pass "meaning" transparently and perfectly from writer to reader. Writers seldom write exactly what they mean and readers seldom interpret a writer's words exactly as the writer intended. Third, the factors that affect the attempts of writers and readers to share an understanding of a text include not only their respective purposes, influences, and understanding of each other, but also the physical, social, cultural, and historical contexts in which reading and writing take place.

This model of the writing situation is based on five key questions:

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Introduction