As a writer, when I saw a headline that read, “The Source of Bad Writing” I was immediately drawn and afraid at the same time; I wanted to know, but I was afraid some of it would apply to my own writing! But, alas, I clicked the link. The expectation of accruing some writing knowledge was too tempting.
According to the author of the piece, Steven Pinker, his take on where all this bad writing was stemming from was a disregard of an audience’s knowledge on the topic on which someone is writing.
As a professional writing major, I have it routinely reminded to me the importance of remembering my audience. Your audience, after all, in a way gives breath to your work. And a lot of writers are forgetting this vital fact. Pinker referenced a term by economists called “The Curse of Knowledge.” This phenomenon occurs when one has “a difficulty in imagining what it is like for someone else not to know something that you know.” This, he says, it what’s happening with writers and why “good people are writing bad prose.”
So, okay, we get the issue and that’s great; now how do we fix it? Pinker offers a variety of insights, but also acknowledges how difficult audience acknowledgment can be. After all, we don’t know every pair of eyes that will view our work and it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will understand what we’re saying. But, to get a better grasp on audience, definitely check out Pinker’s advice.