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  Weekly Feature (March 9, 2008)

Confusing GerundsWriting for Whom?
by Paul



When students and I discuss writing, I sometimes pose this question: What should be the main considerations while writing? Many students quickly answer that they need to pay particular attention to good grammar, spelling, punctuation, vocabulary, sentence and paragraph structure, and the need to stay on topic. Our higher level students will often add the need to compose a well organized essay. The most important writing consideration however, a consideration not often mentioned, is the reading audience Ė for whom the writing is done.

The intended reader of your writing could be a teacher, a friend, a politician, a specialist on the topic, a family member, a peer, or even just you. The point is, we always write for an audience. Someone will be reading our writing and reflecting upon it. Through the writing, the writer communicates his or her thoughts, ideas, and concepts to the reader.

For this communication to be effective the writer must identify who the writing is for, even prior to writing the first draft. Identifying the reading audience includes finding their priorities, their prior knowledge about the topic, their level of vocabulary and language, and what they expect to learn about the writing topic.

Consideration of the target reading audience is crucial. To effectively convey the written material, the writer needs to engage the reader. The reader should feel connected to the written content by gaining a sense that the content is relevant and important. The writer engages the reader through adapting the writing to capture the readerís interest and curiosity.

The following are some writing strategies to promote the readerís engagement:

- include only material that is both on topic, as well as useful to the target audience.
- express clearly your thoughts and ideas.
- use a variety of transitions to make the necessary connections between thoughts, ideas, sentences, and paragraphs.
- use a variety of sentence types and structures.
- choose the level of vocabulary and language that your reader can follow easily.
- begin your writing with a strong introduction to engage the reader early on.
- add examples that readers can identify with.
- place people and action in your writing, making use of action verbs.
- the overall writing style should be straightforward, readable, and easy to understand.
- create a good summary or conclusion at the end of your writing to indicate what the reader should reflect on, or do, as a result of reading your material.

In our Learning Centre, your instructors are the audience of most of your assigned writing. They read and grade your work. Occasionally, an instructor will assign for you to write to an imaginary audience such as a politician, or a specialist on the writing topic. This is to give you practice in applying different writing strategies.

If a writing assignment doesnít specify an audience, it is useful to imagine your classmates, or peers, reading your writing rather than the instructor. Both the topic and your instructor can be addressed better when you consider the instructor to be intelligent, yet hardly informed on the topic.

In summary, the intended reading audience is the most important consideration in any writing. Through adapting the writing style, support, tone, and vocabulary, the writer can engage the reader to the written content. Connecting the reader to the reading promotes effective communication of the written material, and enhances the writerís writing success.

Try a Fill-in-the-Blank Quiz based on this reading.

A Worksheet in Word Format to help identify the reading audience and the purpose of writing. Worksheet in HTML Format

For further details and reference, check these sites:

Online Technical Writing: Audience Analysis

Choosing and Writing for an Audience

Audience (The University of North Carolina)

Overview of Technical Writing


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Confusing Gerunds

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