Woolf does not speak about the relationship between readers and writers in her essay, but she does establish, from the start, an intimate bond with her readers. She begins the essay with a direct address to "you," who has invited her to speak on women and fiction. In her opening sentence, she begins by saying, "But, you may say. ..." In the third sentence, she continues to use the "you," as if directly addressing the reader:
When you asked me to speak about women and fiction I sat down on the banks of a river and began to wonder what the words meant.
It is as if she is in the middle of a casual conversation with an offstage person, and that conversation has been amplified so that we can all overhear it.
Beginning with an intimate, conversational tone draws us in and signals from the start that Woolf is not going to adhere to formal, male terms of "objectivity," distanced prose, and statistics. She pulls the reader onto her own, female turf. From the start, she takes the reader out of the cold ether of disembodied argument to build a case through accumulation of small details that show that women have produced less great literature not because they are inferior to men but because they have been materially disadvantaged. Her intimacy with her reader mirrors the way it is the intimate details of everyday life that make all the difference in what one can accomplish.