A great deal of research has now established that written texts embody interactions between writers and readers, but few studies have examined the ways that small acts of reformulation and exemplification help contribute to this. Abstraction, theorisation and interpretation need to be woven into a text which makes sense to a particular community of readers, and this invariably involves frequent reworkings and exemplifications as writers assess the processing needs, knowledge and rhetorical expectations of their readers to present and then interpret ideas as they write. Known as code glosses in the metadiscourse literature, these elaborations help to contribute to the creation of coherent, reader-friendly prose while conveying the writer's audience-sensitivity and relationship to the message. Drawing on a large corpus of research articles, I explore how professional academic writers monitor their texts for readers in this way to restate information or provide examples as they construct their arguments. Analysis of the corpus reveals that elaboration is a complex and important rhetorical function in academic writing, and that both its use and meanings vary according to discipline.