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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