Editing for the reader

It is important to take account of the reader of your work. The main readers of your assignment will be your tutor and perhaps a second marker' and an external examiner. Sometimes students are asked to write as if' for a specialist external reader, particularly on professional courses, but even these are usually simulated, rarely for real'. This means that writing assignments for university is a strange kind of communication. Although she is your reader, your tutor does not strictly need' your work, and usually you can assume that she knows more about the topic than you do. Sometimes the tutor reads your assignment just to give you feedback, but usually assignments are written and read in order to be marked.

This all makes writing for university difficult because it goes against the usual common-sense view of what communication is all about. However, you might find it easier if, as we explored in Chapter 7, you think of your assignment as presenting an argument, which depends not so much on the actual information given in it as the use you make of this information for what you want to say. If you remember that, however much the tutor knows, she does not yet quite know the exact way in which you will argue your case, then it follows that the assignment has to be written so as to be complete - you cannot expect the tutor to fill in the gaps just because you think she ' should know' about what is missing. Students very often find that they have written an assignment which omitted the very thing that was central in their minds, perhaps because they know it so well that they assume that the reader knows it too, or perhaps because they know that they are writing for someone who knows more than they do. However, at the same time, it is also true that you do not need to tell the reader every little detail about what has become public knowledge on the course. As we have stressed before, you should not spend too much space recounting what happened - the point is to make use of this in developing an argument and to avoid the reader reacting along the lines of, ' Yes, true, but so what? Why are you telling me this?'

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