Discovering Author’s Purpose and Writing with Purpose
It is important for students to understand an author’s purpose, but to also be able to write for a specific purpose – to inform, to persuade, or to entertain. Here are some tips to help students learn the differences between the purposes of writing (to inform, to entertain, to persuade) to be able to determine an author’s purpose, and to identify methods to fulfill a specific purpose in their own writing. Plus, be sure download this handy activity on Author's Purpose and Types of Essays!
Purpose is the reason behind what you do. When you work hard to get all your homework done and turned in on time, the purpose is to get a good grade in the class. When you clean your room without asking, your purpose might be so that your mom will let you go out that night.
Writing has a purpose as well. When an author writes something, there is a purpose behind what he or she writes. The words he or she chooses, the arrangement of those words, and what he or she writes about, all has a purpose. Purpose can usually be categorized into one of three categories: to entertain, to inform, and to persuade. Sometimes authors have more than one reason for writing; and often, the purpose must be inferred from the text.
As the author of an essay, you will also have to write with a specific purpose in mind. Not only must you be able to identify another author’s purpose for writing, you must also have a reason for your own writing. It is important to recognize that the specific words you choose and the way you choose to arrange those words on the page will have a significant impact on the purpose of the text. Before you write, you will need to determine what you want your reader to do or feel after reading, if anything. You must then choose the appropriate words and arrange those words in such a way to illicit a response from your reader.
Read the passages below.
Tired of getting out of bed in the morning? Pressing snooze way too many times? Are you feeling groggy, sluggish, and irritable? Then you need Vitajuice! Vitajuice has 1000 times more vitamins and minerals that you will ever need in a day. Just drink one Vitajuice in the morning, and you will be bright-eyed, yawn-free, and juiced-up all day!
Vitajuice, produced and distributed by the SL Martin Pharmaceutical company, has come under fire recently, as the Federal Drug Administration has challenged its claims on providing energy and nutrition. Vitajuice spokesperson Marta Rickman stated in a press conference on Friday that “Vitajuice is made of powerful herbs, spices, and chemicals that we do not wish to disclose at this time. If the FDA would like to come into our factories and investigate, then we are happy to have them as our guests.” The FDA has declared that not enough testing has taken place for distribution of the juice, and that reports of side effects of vomiting, uncontrollable hair growth, and green-tinged skin are being investigated.
She sat quietly at her kitchen table. Her skin tingled with the excitement. The hair on the back of her neck rose as she thought about the step she was about to take. Should she do it? But what if all she has heard is true? Would she be able to walk around all day like a zombie, or would she rather take the chance of looking like a monster? Her hand reached out, trembling, then retracted quickly. The bottle beckoned. Her heart pounded in her chest, and she felt her throat close with fear. Without another thought, she grabbed the bottle, opened it, and poured the Vitajuice down her throat. Now all she could do was wait.
Each of these three passages all have a specific purpose. How do you know what the purpose of each passage is? How can you tell? There are some telling signs that readers can look for (and writers can use) to reveal purpose.
Persuasive writing wants to win the reader over to his or her way of thinking, or to ultimately make the reader take an action. The best persuasive writers use words to make the reader want to jump up and do something. Advertisements are aimed at persuading the audience to believe a claim, take an action, or as in the first passage, buy a product. Such writing makes strong claims, and often causes the reader to have a feeling of skepticism—that feeling that something might be “too good to be true.” Writing that is persuasive often uses vivid language, including the use of strong adjectives and verbs, backed up with influential—attention getting—statements. The best persuasive writing–although one may feel the claims might too good to be true–still wants the product, or wants to take the action.
Informative writing gives the reader information, including rules, statistics, facts, history, examples, etc. When writers inform, they seek to give the audience information about the topic that the reader may not know. Unlike persuasive writing, which seeks to make you make a decision, informative writing gives the information in an unbiased manner. Informative writing includes textbooks, newspaper articles, “how-to” manuals, expository essays, and research papers. Writing that seeks to inform is straightforward, factual, clear, and (should be!) unbiased.
Entertaining writing seeks to entertain the audience. The writer does not particularly want to make you do anything, and the writer is not necessarily trying to teach you anything. Simply, the author wants to you enjoy what he or she has written. To entertain, writers use imagery, figurative language, anecdotes, descriptive writing, humor, suspense, or anything that is designed to capture the reader’s attention, stir emotions, and take the reader to another place in his or her imagination.