What is a Writer-Based Prose?

Writer-Based Prose Style is

  • a style of writing that is so personalized, so idiosyncratic, that readers cannot successfully interpret it.

Discourse — aka a composition, prose, or texts — may be called writer-based when it

A writer-based prose may also be described as abbreviated, self-centered, vague, developmental, or underdeveloped.

Writer-based prose is the antithesis to reader-based prose. It is self-centered, based on the whim of the author, rather than the needs of the reader.

Related Concepts: Concrete Language; Inner Speech; Vague Language; Vague Pronoun Reference; Reader-Based Prose Style; Reference

Who Coined the Term Writer-Based Prose?

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 themself. 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).

Writer-Based Prose vs Inner Speech

The concept of writer-based prose is different from the concept of inner speech, and yet both of these concepts are interrelated.

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 this language, it so happens, shares many of the characteristics of writer-based prose: it can be disorganized and it can be generative, creative.

Writer-Based Prose & Composing

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.

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 rhetorical moves.

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.


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

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