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What is writing?

What is writing?


Writing can be defined by a series o f contrasts: 

• It is both a physical and a mental act. At the most basic level, writing is the physical act of committing words or ideas to some medium, whether it is hieroglyphics inked onto parchment or an e-mail message typed into a computer. On the other hand, writing is the mental work of inventing ideas, thinking about how to express them, and organizing them into statements and paragraphs that will be clear to a reader. 

• Its purpose is both to express and impress. Writers typically serve two masters: themselves, and their own desires to express an idea or feeling, and readers, also called the audience, who need to have ideas expressed in certain ways. Writers must then choose the best form for their writing-a shopping list, notes from a meeting, a scholarly article, a novel, or poetry are only a few of the choices. Each of these types of writing has a different level o f complexity, depending on its purpose. 


• It is both a process and a product. The writer imagines, organizes, drafts, edits, reads, and rereads. This process of writing is often cyclical, and sometimes disorderly. Ultimately, what the audience sees, whether it is an instructor or a wider audience, is a product—an essay, letter, story, or research report. These contrasts may seem merely like clever or convenient ways to break down the larger concept. In fact, they point to the source of many conflicts and misunderstandings about writing and the teaching of writing.

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