Understanding Writing Situations

What Influences Writers?

Writers will be influenced by a number of factors as they compose a document. Their interests (what they'd like to do) and their needs (what they must do) will affect their decision about choosing a particular topic, the points they make in that document, and the evidence they use to support their points.

Writers' values and beliefs will also influence their document. Writers are likley to choose examples and evidence that reflects their particular perspective on a topic. They will also affect the way they relate to their readers -- whether they adopt a friendly tone, for example.

Writers' knowledge of a particular topic will also affect their work on a document. When writers know a great deal about a topic, they might find it easier to locate appropriate evidence. When writers know relatively little about a topic, in contrast, they'll need to spend much more time searching for, evaluating, and critically reading sources.

Writers--and the writing situations in which they find themselves--are seldom free of requirements and limitations. Requirements are typically associated with an academic or workplace assignment. Common requirements include: length (in words or pages), due date, number and/or type of sources that can be used, organization and format (such as whether to include a title page, works cited list, and so on), documentation style (such as MLA or APA), and intermediate drafts. In addition to these requirements, writers are likely to face certain limitations, such as lack of access to information and lack of time to work on a project.

Reflecting on the requirements and limitations faced by a particular writer can help you understand why particular decisions were made. As a writer, reflecting on your requirements and limitations can help you decide whether a particular decision-such as choice of topic or the inclusion of evidence from a particular type of source-will help or hurt your chances of accomplishing your purposes.

In contrast to requirements and limitations, opportunities expand the possibilities for a writer. Among many other possibilities, opportunities include access to a specialized or particularly good library, personal experience with and knowledge about a topic, access to people who are experts on a particular topic, and access to hardware or software that can help you produce your document (such as desktop publishing software, a good color printer, and Web development software).

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