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Professional Writing. Dr. Heather Blain Vorhies Office of Writing Initiatives The Graduate School. “It’s the Audience, Stupid!”. Writing for Reader Expectations.

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Professional Writing

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Professional Writing

Dr. Heather Blain Vorhies

Office of Writing Initiatives

The Graduate School

“It’s the Audience, Stupid!”

Writing for Reader Expectations

“But when our readers are people in the working world, people who need to be informed or convinced or persuaded of the rightness of our perceptions, we need to send them persuasive instructions for how to put all this information together.” (George Gopen 155)

Toll Booth Syndrome

Dear Ms. Vorhies,

We were referred to you by our colleague, Jenny B, who is collaborating with you and the Office of Writing Initiatives. Stepping on these efforts, we need your assistance in developing an award for graduate research. It will perfectly be aligned with StepUP plans that are under way. In order to best meet graduate students’ needs, we are kindly asking your support and assistance in reaching out to individual departments for their suggestions. Below you will find a sample email to be sent to their attention. If you have answers to any of the questions below, we will be very happy to receive your comments.  

Thank you.

Jonathon Prunderhomme

What Does the Reader Need to Know, NOT What Do You Need to Tell the Reader

Tell readers what they need to know in the order they need to know it!

Some thoughts on Style

Original Text (


Transportation plays a pivotal role in independent living. Transportation is necessary to access health care, education, employment, shopping, recreation, and other services. However, many individuals in the United States are not able to access transportation due to limitations in mobility, whether this is due to a disability, a medical condition, economics, or a simple lack of access.

Transportation plays a pivotal role in providing access to opportunities supportive of independent living and full participation in society. Transportation options are necessary to access health care, education, employment, shopping, recreational activities, and other public services necessary for daily life. However, many individuals in the United States are not able to access opportunities derived from transportation services due to limitations in mobility (i.e., they cannot drive due to a disability or medical condition, cannot afford a car, or have no access to transit services).

What Does the Reader Absolutely Needto Know?

Circle the prepositions.

Circle the “to be” verb forms.

Find the action

Put the action in a simple active verb.

No slow wind-ups!

Lanham’s Paramedic Method

The MEmo






Body (Short, focused paragraphs)

Memo Format

Okay Formatting

Better Formatting

I suggest:

An immediate ARC analysis

A new budget drawn from this analysis

Tiered implementation of Hobson’s during AY 2013-2014

I offer the following suggestions for improved fiscal efficacy. First, the company should order an immediate ARC analysis. Second, the company should draw up a new budget using the results of this analysis. Last, I recommend that the Graduate School re-structure its Hobson’s implementation in tiers during AY 2013-2014.

How Do We Best Process Information?

  • Use bullet points sparingly

  • Use white space and headings to break up and emphasize information

  • Organize information into easily “digestible” pieces

  • Organize information in a hierarchy

    • What does the reader need to know first?

    • Second?

    • Third?

A Few Good Resources

Campus, Web, and Print Resources

One-on-One Writing Consultation for Graduate Students

Writing Fellows

  • Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab

  • University of Wisconsin-Madison Writing Center Website

  • University of North Carolina Writing Center Website

  • Helen Sword’s The Writer’s Diet

Web Resources

  • The Sense of Structure: Writing From the Reader’s Perspective (George D. Gopen)

  • Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace (Joseph Williams and Joseph Bizup)

  • Understanding Style: Practical Ways to Improve Your Writing (Joe Glaser)

  • Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts (Joseph Harris)

  • Technical Communication (Michael Markel)

Print Resources

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