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  Weekly Feature: (November 27, 2005)


The Writer's ContractThe Writing Contract
L's Weekly Feature


Writers and readers should enjoy a symbiotic relationship: writers write to communicate their ideas, and readers read to obtain those ideas. The craft of writing is concerned with achieving this happy coincidence in the most effective way possible. Successful writers are always aware of a contract they implicitly make with the reader—to write in a way that is both respectful and appropriate to the reader.

Respect for the reader is shown by treating the reader’s time as limited and precious. A good awareness of his audience will allow the writer to provide an appropriate amount of information. Too little information will leave the reader confused, and too much will leave the reader exasperated.

Your writing changes depending on whether you are writing for an expert or a novice in the subject. For the novice, the writer will often need to present more background information and to be careful not to use specialized terminology without defining them clearly.

An expert usually needs neither of these courtesies and would probably be insulted by their inclusion. As writers, we need to constantly ask the questions: “Who am I writing for?” and “Is this necessary?”

My high school English teacher’s favourite exhortation was: “Don’t tell me that water is wet!” I’ve tried to always keep that in mind and to check if what I have included is doing effective work. Thank you for reading, and, if what you’ve read is old hat, please accept my apologies for trying to tell you that water is wet.


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