Often, you’ll know your purpose at the exact moment you know your audience because they’re generally a package deal:
- I need to write a letter to my landlord explaining why my rent is late so she won’t be upset. (Audience = landlord; Purpose = explaining/keeping her happy)
- I want to write a proposal for my work team to persuade them to change our schedule. (Audience = work team; Purpose = persuading/to get the schedule changed)
- I have to write a research paper for my environmental science instructor comparing solar to wind power. (Audience = instructor; Purpose = analyzing/showing that you understand these two power sources)
How Do I Know What My Purpose Is?
Sometimes your instructor will give you a purpose like in the third example above, but other times, especially out in the world, your purpose will depend on what effect you want your writing to have on your audience. What is the goal of your writing? What do you hope for your audience to think, feel, or do after reading it? Here are a few possibilities:
- Persuade/inspire them to act or think about an issue from your point of view.
- Challenge them/make them question their thinking or behavior.
- Argue for or against something they believe or do/change their minds or behavior.
- Inform/teach them about a topic they don’t know much about.
- Connect with them emotionally/help them feel understood.