Writing for Yourself

When you write strictly for yourself, your focus is primarily on your own thoughts and emotions—you don't need to follow any guidelines or rules at all, except those that you choose to impose. In shopping lists, journals, diaries, appointment books, class notebooks, text margin notes, and so on, you are your own audience, and you don't need to be especially careful, organized, neat, or correct so long as you understand it yourself.

However, keep in mind your own intended purpose here: a shopping list only needs to be clear until the groceries are in, probably the same day; however, many of these other personal forms may have future uses that warrant a certain amount of clarity when your memory no longer serves. When checking your appointment book, it helps if planning notes include names, times, and places you can clearly find six days later. When reviewing class notebooks, it's nice to be able to make sense of class notes taken six weeks ago; when reading a diary or journal written six years ago, you will be glad you included clarifying details.

Even when writing for the other audiences described in this chapter, audiences carefully hypothesized or imagined in your head, you will write better if you are pleased with your text. Your first audience, at least for important writing, must always be yourself. If the tone strikes you as just the right blend of serious and comic, if the rhythms please your ear when read aloud, and if the arguments strike you as elegant and the title as clever, then your audience will more than likely feel the same.


1. Think about the last paper you wrote. Describe any problems you remember having to solve about purpose, situation, and audience.

2. For whom do you write most often, a friend? a parent? a teacher? yourself? How do you write differently to this person than to somebody else?

3. Who was the toughest audience for whom you have ever had to write? What made him or her so difficult? Would that still be true today?


1. Write a short paper or letter that you shape to three distinctly different audiences. (Make these real so that you actually keep an individual in mind as you write.) Sandwich these three papers in between an introduction and a conclusion in which you explain something interesting that you notice about writing to these different people.

2. Choose one assignment that you have already completed in one of your classes. Reshape it as a short article for your school newspaper. Before you do this, make observations in your journal about what changes you intended to make and, after completing it, what changes you actually did make.


1. INDIVIDUAL: Interview an instructor or other published writer in your community and ask questions about how he or she solves composing problems. Transcribe this interview and share with classmates.

2. COLLABORATIVE: As a class, select a topic about which you would like to know something more. Locate one or two sources of information (from the library or other people) and take good notes. As a class, identify as many different possible audiences as you can think of until the number of audiences equals the number of students in class. Write one per slip of paper and place in a hat and let each student draw an audience out of a hat. Each now write a paragraph to the audience drawn making the information relevant to that particular audience. (Results could be read and evaluated by playing the same game in reverse, with different students role-playing these different audiences for each other.)

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