Monday, September 10, 2007

Gentle Reader

One concept we teach in writing class is the difference between "writer-based prose" - writing the writer does with only herself in mind, and "reader-based prose" - writing with an audience - often a particular audience in mind. Many bloggers - I include myself particularly, here - post prose that is too much writer-based. Not that it isn't interesting, but that it may not work hard enough to keep readers interested. (I'll try to do better)The goal of keeping "gentle reader" following along on the journey is addressed nicely in today's column "The Care and Feeding of the Reader" by Rachel Toor for Chronicle of Higher Ed.

Says Toor:
"Gentle Reader" was both a direct address, and an expression of keen insight on the part of 18th- and 19th-century authors who knew that you can't hector someone into reading your work. If we are to find our readers, we must be gentle with them, keep them in mind as we write, help them along. We need to think about their pleasure, not just our information.

Anyone can publish. But not everyone will produce work that more than a small number of people will read. The art and craft of publishing a good article or book is being able to write what you want, while at the same time keeping in mind what the reader needs. It's a dance. We've all seen people dancing by themselves, hearing a tune that plays only in their own heads. It can be amusing to watch for a while, but, ultimately, most of us turn away to look for a partner."

That's a great goal. (By the way, the articles that appear with Chronicle Career column nearly always educate and amuse. Well worth checking.)



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