Writing – The reader, the writer and the topic
There are three players in a piece of writing – the writer, the topic and the reader (as in the triangle above). Two of these dominate in any piece of writing, and which two should influence the types of words used. Why? Because usage of certain words can enable you the writer to influence your reader – what they know about and think of the topic, their views of you the writer, and the relationship between the two of you.
From writer to topic
Let’s start with what you wrote when you were young, i.e. essays, exam questions and longer reports/dissertations. Here, we, the writer, wrote about topics – as represented along the bottom of the triangle above.
In this kind of writing the writer should choose words for their ability to show what he/she knows about a topic. The words used can affect (a) what the reader thinks of the topic (e.g. Malnutrition is a major issue in most of Africa) and (b) what the reader thinks of the writer (e.g. I find economics agonizingly dull).
This is called the referential mode of writing.
From writer to reader
The second type of writing is from writer to reader, as for example in a job application’s covering letter, or a proposal document. This is called the interpersonal mode, on the left of the triangle.
In this writing the writer should use words (a) that can draw readers in (e.g. using pronouns – we, our, us etc.); (b) to create a favourable impression with the reader (e.g. it seems to me); and (c) with an eye on what the reader may or does not know, how they may differ from the writer, and how formal the writer wants to be (I think, I am told).
From topic to reader
And finally there is writing from topic to reader, as in advertisements or election material (the directive mode, on the right of the triangle).
Here the writer should select words (a) that help the reader understand the topic (e.g. ‘signposts’ such as on the other hand, even so, however) and (b) that inject feelings about the topic and that will influence the reader (The ideal getaway destination).
Conclusions for your writing
1.) Think what side of the triangle is your writing and home in on its players and requirements.
2.) Choose your words and phrases carefully….
On the one hand they can have a positive impact, helping you achieve the goals of your writing – be it explaining something, installing a view of something, building a relationship with the reader, or creating positive impressions of you.
But they can also be negative. They may be of an inappropriate tone, or lead the reader to form a negative (or insufficiently positive) impression of you the writer, and of what you are writing about.