Understanding Writing Situations

What do Writers and Readers Know about Each Other?

One of the most important factors affecting the writing situation is writers' and readers'representations of each other. When writers understand their readers well -- that is, when they know a fair amount about their readers' purposes and influences -- they're likely to create more successful documents. Similarly, when readers have an accurate understanding of the writer -- his or her purpose, needs, interests, values, beliefs, and knowledge of a topic, among other things -- they are likely to be more successful at interpreting the document in a way that the writer intended.

In many cases, the lack of an accurate representation of readers will result in a "poorly written" document -- that is, a document that doesn't help either the writers or the readers. As you consider writing your document, reflect carefully on what you know about your readers. If you know relatively little about them, or if you're missing important information (such as an understanding of why they would want to read your document or what they would hope to gain from it), consider spending some time learning about them. It will be time well spent.

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Introduction