In academic writing, the reader is a peer. I often say that scholarly writing is the art of writing down what you know for the purpose of discussing it with other knowledgeable people. These people are familiar to us because we know many of the same things and share many experiences with them. I tell students to imagine the most serious fellow student in their cohort, for example, which lets them call to mind someone who has read the all required reading and attended all the course lectures. It could even be someone they have talked to outside of class about the topics they have studied. But, all this familiarity notwithstanding, it is important to remember that the reader is indeed an “other”; they are someone else who knows. They have an entire personal history that you can never know and this history has shaped the way the read your words, the way your text affects them. That is, while you are in complete control of the text (you choose which words go in which order) you are not in control of the reading. This otherness of reading must be respected.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *