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Inference and Writing

Looking at the inferential processes involved in writing and how this might help student writers

Writers make inferences when writing texts just as speakers do when formulating spoken utterances. Within both pragmatic stylistics and linguistic pragmatics, however, attention has focused more on the inferences of addressees or audiences than on the inferences of communicators. This paper explores some of the ways in which focusing on the inferences of writers can help us to understand the processes of writers and the processes of readers.

In most cases, the inferences made by communicators are more complex than those made by addressees. Communicators need to make assumptions not only about which assumptions will be manifest to addressees but also about what addressees will do when presented with the evidence provided by their utterances. Where audiences are relatively large or diverse, the inferences which speakers and writers need to make are even more complex.

The approach outlined here takes as its starting point a model which treats the processes of communicators and addressees separately. It also aims to take seriously the view that meanings are products of the interaction between communicators and addressees, exploring different ways in which interaction takes place in speech and writing and in different modes more generally.

The paper reports classroom activities which help students to understand the inferences writers make and to develop their writing in any genre. The classroom work reported looks at a wide range of genres, including text messages, emails, formal and informal letters, academic essays, business and technical writing, poetry, drama and prose fiction.

The conclusion is that focusing on the inferences of writers can help us to understand the texts they produce. It can also help writers to develop their own writing and teachers to develop materials which help students to develop their own writing.


Dr. Billy Clark | talks | www


Date and Time:

5 March 2010 at 2:30 pm


1 hour 30 minutes



English, Middlesex University
The Burroughs
+44 20 84 11 65 55

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Additional Information:

Room tbc. On our Trent Park Campus. Free and open to all. Contact Billy Clark for further details:

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