Chalmers Writing Guide

Reader

Since the reader is such an important factor in determining many aspects of writing, it is crucial for you to try to establish who the reader is.

 Writers seldom know their readers personally so it can seem difficult to be confident that the text communicates clearly.

  • The more you get to know your audience, the more efficient you can be in your writing. While the term 'writing' encompasses many aspects, a large part is communicating a packet of specific information to an intended reader. This information needs to be packaged in a way the reader can interpret. From this perspective, all writing is directed towards an audience and you must direct your attention to the reader.

    The following simple questions can help you define what kind of reader you are writing for:

    Who will be reading the text?
    Will your readers be executives, administrative personnel, fellow students, supervisors, or colleagues?

    What kind of prior knowledge does that reader have?
    Will your readers be from a technical or non-technical background? What terms and expressions can you assume they are already familiar with? Likewise, what concepts and terms likely need more explanation and clarification? What sort of educational background does your reader have?

    What does you reader need to know?
    What information is most important to them? Are they more interested in your results or in how you got your results?

    Why does your reader read the text?
    Readers most often read texts for a specific purpose. This might initially be to determine whether your paper is relevant to them and worthwhile reading, hence why it is important that your text has a clear purpose. The more informed you are about why readers will potentially read your text, the better able you will be to structure your information in a way that fulfills your readers’ needs.

    What does your audience expect of the text or information?
    What format are they most familiar with? Is there a particular structure that is commonly accepted as good practice for your type of writing?

    How will your readers use the information in the text?
    Try visualizing what your readers will do once they have read the text. For example, a supervisor would perhaps simply make a note of an assignment being completed successfully, while if your reader is in a managerial position, it is reasonable to expect action. A colleague might use the information in a related project or in a process further down the line of a production plant, thus needing to be able to access information quickly and regularly in the document. If readers outside the organization read the text, these readers might very well be looking for information on new theories or technologies that they might try to introduce to their company or organization.