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Purpose And Audience

By Expert Author: Joseph Hughes

Though it often seeks to engage the readers' interest, explanatory writing gives prominence to the facts about its subjects. It aims at readers' intellects rather than their imagination, determined to instruct rather than entertain argue. To set out to reach readers about a concept is no small undertaking. To succeed, you must know the concept so well that you can explain it simply, without jargon or other confusing language. You must be authoritative without showing off or talking down. You must also know readers or imagine them as clearly as possible. Primarily, you must estimate what they already know about the concept in order to decide which facts will be truly new to them. You will want to define unfamiliar words and pace the information carefully so that your readers are neither bored nor overwhelmed.
This assignment requires a confident purposefulness, a willingness to cast yourself in the role of expert, which may not come naturally to you at this stage of your development as a writer. Students are most often asked to explain things in writing to readers who know more than they do- their instruction. When you plan and draft this essay, however, you will be aiming at readers who know less-may be much less-than you do about the concept, you are explaining. Even enough some of them may be more widely educated than you, you can readily and confidently assume the role of expert after a couple of hours of library research, your purpose being to deepen these readers' understanding of the concept they may already be familiar with. You could also write for upper elementary or secondary- school students, introducing them to a completely unfamiliar concept, or to your classmates, demonstrating to them that a concept in an academic discipline they find forbidding can actually be made not only understandable but also interesting. Even if your instructor asks you to consider your reader to be him or her alone, you can assume your instructor is willing to be informed about nearly any concept you choose, except for concepts central to his or her academic specialty.
You've spent many years in school reading explanations of concepts: your textbook in every subject has been full of concept explanations, you will be delivering one. To succeed, you'll have to accept your role of expert and the more passive position of your readers. Your readers accept your role of expert and the more passive position of your readers. Your readers expect that your information is accurate and that you haven't excluded anything essential to their understanding. Your role and your readers, inability to challenge your information puts you in a particularly powerful position as a writer.

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