Once you have finished the draft of your first essay and you are happy with your work, leave it for a few days and move on to something else. Then, when you come back to it, read through it twice. The first time, imagine that you are a reader who has never seen the essay before and only knows a little bit about the topic. The second time, image that you are a professional writer reviewing his or her own manuscript that is about to be sent off to a publisher. Answer the following questions.
The Reader Sees (reading the essay as an outside who only knows a little about the topic):
- What did you find most interesting about the argument posed in this essay?
- What confused you about this essay?
- What questions do you have after reading this essay?
The Writer Sees (reading the essay as a professional writer):
- What are you proud of in this essay?
- Which section(s) did you skim over or read through very quickly? Why?
- Are you convinced by your own argument? Why or why not?
This activity asks you to consider the important relationship that exists between reader and writer. It is crucial to think about the needs of your reader because your writing always exists independently of you — you will not be there to explain your ideas if your reader has any questions. Responding to the questions that a reader might have, or clarifying and streamlining a section that might confuse them will allow your essay to stand on its own, and will ultimately allow your reader to trust you more. The relationship between reader and writer is based upon how well the reader thinks the writer understands him or her, and anticipates the kinds of concerns that they might have. Stepping into the shoes of your reader for a few minutes can be a big help.