Writer-Based Prose Style

Writer-Based Prose Style is

  • writing that is intended for the writer as opposed to the reader.
  • a unique style of writing that plays an important role in thinking and creativity.

Texts that are classified as writer-based prose use

Key Words: Inner Speech


The term writer-based prose was coined by Linda Flower (1979):

As both a style of writing and a style of thought, Writer-Based prose is natural and adequate for a writer writing to himself or herself. However, it is the source of some of the most common and pervasive problems in academic and professional writing. The symptoms can range from a mere missing referent or an underdeveloped idea to an unfocused and apparently pointless discussion. The symptoms are diverse but the source can often be traced to the writer’s underlying strategy for
composing and to his or her failure to transform private thought into a public, reader-based expression (p. 19).

Thus, writer-based prose is the antithesis of reader-based prose. Texts that are described as writer-based may be indecipherable to readers. After all, by definition they are written for the writer and not the reader.

Writer-Based Prose as a Form of Inner Speech

Many first drafts are writer-based. In workplace and school settings, everyone writes rough first-drafts. That’s just the nature of thinking, writing, and communicating. Most people cannot sit down and write a perfect first draft. Instead, most people need to engage in cognitive processes that are shaped by innumerable sociocultural forces.

So, writers begin by writing down whatever they can write down. Then, over time, as they keep thinking about a topic, as they collaborate and solicit critique, they keep revising those texts.

In Composition Studies, a field of Writing Studies, writer-based prose is considered to be a form of inner speech. Inner speech is the soft underbelly of thought—the voice you hear, the voice you use to think with ).For Writing Studies, the concept of inner speech invokes the work of Vygotsky and Piaget—two learning theorists who theorized about the role of self-talk in the development of language competencies, personal development, and socialization.

[ See The Writer’s Guide to Writing Commons }

When you, as the writer, look at your own draft, you may recall detailed memories and associations. Even a single word may elicit a burst of memories. This is the language of self-talk and self-regulation. This is the language of the self. It’s personally full of meaning, and yet for others it’s a wasteland, an indecipherable landscape of meaningless chatter.

Ultimately, writer-based prose is the language of creativity. In contrast, reader-based prose is the language of communication.

Sentence-Structure & The Role of Writer-Based Prose in Composition

Writer-based prose plays an important role in composition: when drafting, writers often first write sloppy drafts. They freewrite without concern for grammar, mechanics, and punctuation. Instead of communicating with others, them initially compose for themselves. Because writing is thinking on the page, when drafting, writers jot down random words and phrases, not really sure where those textual traces are taking them.

Eventually, however, in order to communicate to an audience, writers need to translate their ideas using signs reader can understand, including, e.g., research methods, genre, organizational schema, and diction.

Writer-Based Prose & Sentence-Structure

Writer-Based Prose is characterized by short, choppy sentences that fail to show logical relationships.

While short and simplistic sentences can be used effectively to emphasize a point or clarify a confusing statement, frequent use of them can make a paper sound choppy and interrupt the flow of the paper. Primer-style sentences require readers to infer logical relationships. Loads of simplistic sentences make a text to appear more like a freewrite, a rough draft, a laundry list, than a text written for an audience.

Works Cited

Flower, Linda. “Writer-Based Prose: A Cognitive Basis for Problems in Writing.” College English 41:1 (September 1979): 19-37. Print.