"I bring a pen to class," or, the importance of clarity

Twice a week my students have to write a journal response to a prompt.  Today’s was about them – what makes them tick, what makes them unique, what they bring to the class.  Some bring a sense of humor or a strong work ethic, while others bring paper and their backpack.

I learned an important lesson today:  Just because I understand something doesn’t mean everyone understands.  And the same can be applied to your writing.  That’s why you need beta readers.  Many beta readers.  Chances are if several people point out the same thing, you’re doing it wrong.

Another point to emphasize is to know your audience.  Will they understand you?  I have students who are on a third-grade reading level, and others who describe themselves as “wanting to be able to express myself coherently.”  I need to tailor my class to somewhere in the middle where most of my students are, and then work individually with the outlying students.  With writing, however, you don’t have to worry about that.  Think of what your readers want and which readers you want, and then make sure they know what you’re talking about.  This includes vocabulary as well as references and writing style.

Have you had any problems with your readers misunderstanding what you’ve written?  How do you deal with it?

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