1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

purpose

By

purpose
Definition:

In composition, a person's reason for writing, such as to inform, entertain, explain, or persuade. (See Examples and Observations, below.)

"Successfully settling on a purpose requires defining, redefining, and continually clarifying your goal," says Mitchell Ivers. "It's an ongoing process, and the act of writing can alter your original purpose" (Random House Guide to Good Writing, 1993).

See also:

Examples and Observations:

  • "Writers often confuse their business purpose (or the problem to be solved) with their writing purpose. The business purpose is the issue they are addressing; the writing purpose is why they are writing the document. If they focus only on the business purpose, they easily fall into the trap of telling the story of what happened. Readers usually want to know what you learned, not what you did."
    (Lee Clark Johns, The Writing Coach. Thomson, 2004)


  • Responding to Questions About Purpose
    "As a writer, you must decide what your writing purpose is and match your point of view to that purpose. Do you want to sound more authoritative or more personal? Do you want to inform or entertain? Do you want to remain distant or get close to your reader? Do you want to sound more formal or informal? Answering these questions will determine your point of view and give you greater control over a writing situation."
    (Joy Wingersky et al., Writing Paragraphs and Essays, 6th ed. Wadsworth, 2009)


  • Seven Purposes
    We use language for a wide variety of purposes, which include communicating information and ideas, and when we speak or write--especially in more formal situations--it is helpful to reflect on what our main purposes are. . . .
    To Interact
    An important function of language is to help us get on with other people, to interact. . . . This kind of language use is sometimes referred to--dismissively--as small talk. . . . Yet interacting with others forms an important part of most people's lives and the ability to talk to people one does not know . . . is a valuable social skill.

    To Inform
    Every day of our lives we communicate information and ideas to other people. . . . Writing or speaking to inform needs to be clear and this means not only knowing the facts, but also being aware of the needs of your audience.

    To Find Out
    Not only do we use language to inform, we also use it to find out information. The ability to ask questions and then follow them up with further enquiries is very important in both work and leisure. . . .

    To Influence
    Whether I look at life as a private individual, as a worker, or as a citizen, it is important that I should be aware of when others are trying to influence me, and of how they are trying to do it. . . .

    To Regulate
    Advertisers and politicians may try to persuade us of the rightness of a particular course of action; kegislators tell us what to do. They use language to regulate our actions. . . .

    To Entertain
    Fortunately language isn't all work. There is also play. And the playful use of language is both important and widespread. . . .

    To Record
    The previous six purposes all presuppose an audience other than the speaker or writer. There is one use, however, that does not. It is predominately a purpose for writing, although it can be spoken. In many different situations we need to make a record of something . . . so that it is not forgotten.
    (John Seely, The Oxford Guide to Effective Writing and Speaking, 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2005)


  • Purpose in Analytical Essays
    "The purposes for writing analytical essays vary, but primarily these essays give readers a chance to see the results of rigorous analytical work that you have done as part of the drafting. That work usually depends on the critical reading, questioning, and interpretation of a text of some kind. The process of that reading, questioning, and interpreting is less evident in the analytical essay than in the exploratory essay, but the process is reflected indirectly by the way you establish relationships between the text you have read and what you have to say about that text, between your evidence and your claim."
    (Robert DiYanni and Pat C. Hoy II, The Scribner Handbook for Writers, 3rd ed. Allyn and Bacon, 2005)


  • Communicating With a Reader
    "In recent writing instruction, purpose for writing has become a central focus. Many classrooms now include, for example, unevaluated writing journals in which students can freely explore topics of personal interest to them and from which they may select entries to develop into full essays (Blanton, 1987; Spack & Sadow, 1983). Writing on topics selected in this manner goes a long way toward ensuring the kind of internal motivation for writing which presumably results in the commitment to task which, in turn, is thought to help writing and language improve. But the immediate purpose for writing about a particular subject is neither language nor even writing improvement. It is, rather, a more natural purpose, i.e., communication with a reader about something of personal significance to the writer."
    (Ilona Leki, "Reciprocal Themes in ESL Reading and Writing." Landmark Essays on ESL Writing, ed. by Tony Silva and Paul Kei Matsuda. Lawrence Erlbaum, 2001)
Also Known As: writing purpose, aim
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Grammar & Composition
  4. Grammar & Rhetoric Glossary
  5. Paired Construction - Quotative
  6. purpose - definition and examples of purpose in composition

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.