Hypothetical Reader


Your hypothetical reader might be someone other than your instructor - perhaps someone who is similar to yourself, but who knows little about your specific subject area. A favourite aunt or uncle, friend, or a previous teacher makes an excellent hypothetical reader because you will be able to imagine what you do and do not need to tell them in order for them to understand your work. You will also write with more confidence with a familiar audience in mind rather than with one that you imagine to be judging your work.


Your Reader

At some point you must begin to shift your attention to your reader. You must concern yourself with organizing the writing you have done so that it will meet the purposes of your reader.


For this type of revision, it may help to imagine a hypothetical reader. Imagining how this person would respond to what you have written will help you decide what you need to say to establish the ‘context’ for your discussion and to be convincing about your main points.

Sometimes an instructor will specify a particular audience as an aspect of the assignment. For example, writing a recommendation to a school board about the best policy to adopt in its schools regarding a certain issue. In cases like this put yourself in the place of the hypothetical audience and consider the questions they are likely to have, the information they need, and the kind of arguments that they are likely to find convincing.

Click on the buttons below to learn more about addressing the needs of your reader for clarity and significance.

No matter what hypothetical audience you have, it is still the case that your instructor will read and mark the essay. Therefore, be sure that you have read the assignment information carefully and clarified the instructor’s expectations. And in case of uncertainty, speak to your instructor about how you should imagine your audience.