Amateurs suffer from directile dysfunction

The prevalence of directile dysfunction in men is well established, at least by women in North America. (I’m talking about the inability to ask for directions when traveling in unfamiliar locations.) But, while working on a lecture-tutorial devoted to transitions (e.g.,  “however,” “because,” etc.), it occurred to me that amateur writers also suffer from a version of this malady. Except their dysfunction focuses on GIVING, rather than asking for, directions.

When you write for an audience who knows less about the content of your document than you do, those readers are going to need directions to follow your logic. Amateurs don’t give sufficient directions because they don’t remember what it was like to think about their content for the first time. When writers have completed a final draft of their document, they’ve probably been thinking about the content for weeks — or even months or years! Pros are good at taking the perspective of their audience and imagining them making their way through a document without the writer’s experience.

I also suspect amateurs fear stating their logic too clearly. Here’s what I mean. Many of my students clearly believe if their ideas or logic is too clear, their readers will perceive them as simpletons. This fear drives writers to produce documents with more emphasis on displaying their own intellect than on communicating a message to their readers.  The choice is yours. But I will count you as a professional only if you focus on your readers in the workplace. And that means a willingness to stop and give readers directions.

Here’s a page from the Impact Fee Study Executive Summary  referred to in the upcoming tutorial on transitions. It was adapted by me based on a report from TishlerBise, planning consultants, for the city of Orange Beach, Alabama. The rhetorical context of the document:

  • Writer: an employee at the planning consultant
  • Readers: representatives of the city, as well as interested citizens and businesses
  • Bottom Line Message: specific fees on real estate development are recommended to support municipal services on newly developed land

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