Understanding Writing Situations

What is the Reader's Purpose?

Like writers, readers have purposes. Most readers don't read something unless they see some sort of benefit in doing so. Perhaps they want to be entertained; perhaps they want to learn something new; perhaps they need to review someone's work in order to write a report or assign a grade. Understanding the purposes readers bring to a document can help you anticipate how they will react to a particular document.

As a writer, understanding the purposes of your readers can help you create a more effective document. If you are working on a writing assignment for a class, for example, one of your most important readers will be your instructor. But your instructor will not necessarily be the only reader of your document. Other readers might include your classmates, people who have a professional or personal interest in your topic, or, should your research project be published in print or online, the readers of a particular magazine, journal, or Web site. If you are writing in a business or professional setting, your readers might include your supervisor, his or her supervisors, customers, or other people associated with the organization. In addition, it's possible that your readers will include the writers of sources you might use in your document-writers who share your interest in your topic and who might want to respond to what you will eventually write.

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Introduction