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While your mother may have warned you about making assumptions, every writer assumes at some point while writing.  In order to figure out what your audience may need, you have to make assumptions about who they are and what they need. 

When we assume, we are imagining that our audience holds some of the same beliefs or ideas that we do.  For example, if you are arguing for the creation of laws against texting while driving, you might make the following assumptions about your reader:

  • The reader knows what texting is.
  • The audience can see that it might be dangerous.

Sometimes, however, it is dangerous to make an assumption.  After all, mother knows best.  However, be careful about assuming that your audience will automatically agree with you, and make sure that you don’t make assumptions that could be offensive about a race, class, gender, or age.  Here are some assumptions that would be inappropriate for the texting while driving example above:

  • Assuming that only a teenager would text while driving, and thereby ranting about the irresponsibility of teenagers in your paper.
  • Assuming that women are the only culprits of texting while driving and commenting on women as bad drivers.

Ask yourself the following questions to help uncover some of your assumptions.  Think about whether these assumptions might be inappropriate ones about gender, race, class, or age.   

  • How might these relate to your topic?
  • Would the outcome be different if you had a different perspective, such as the opposite gender?
  • Does society have a different assumption of these categories? How might that impact your paper?

It is not just important to think about the assumptions you make based on audience.  You also want to think about why you have assumptions about certain topics.

  • Why do you feel as you do about the topic you are writing on?
  • Is there a reason why you do not accept the facts or statistics someone else may present on this topic?
  • Do any stereotypes or beliefs shape your feelings on the subject?