Writing Purpose and Audience
Purpose answers the question, “why am I writing this?” Do you want to entertain? Do you want to argue a point? Do you want to tell a story? There are four main purposes to consider: informative, expressive, persuasive, and literary.
Informative writing is used to educate or explain something to an audience. Usually this appears in essays, presentations, or newspaper articles. A leaflet or poster would, in fact, be another form of informative writing. This writing tends to be clear, fact-based, and as balanced as possible.
Expressive writing is used to express opinions. It’s main purpose is to contribute to human thought and make deeper connections with those around you. If you open your newspaper to the “Opinion” section you’ll get a first-hand seat to some expressive writing. You’ll also see it if you scroll through your Twitter feed or click on your friend’s Facebook rant you’re also getting a slice of expressive writing.
Persuasive writing is a more serious form of writing on a debatable topic. The writer’s goal is to change the mind of the reader, or at least get the reader to question their own point of view. Unlike expressive writing, persuasive writing requires research, thoughtful analysis, and a balanced presentation of the fact.
Lastly, let’s talk about literary writing. This is a form of creative writing, such as a novel, a poem, or a play, where the purpose is to entertain rather than to inform.
It should be noted that most writing has more than one purpose. You may want to write in an entertaining literary novel while still trying to persuade the reader of some deeper societal change. On the flipside, you may choose to write an informative news article in a funny way to help hold your reader’s attention.
Once you’ve pinpointed your purpose, it’s time to think about your audience. Who are you writing this for? There is an audience for every text that’s written, and understanding who that audience is shapes your writing significantly. You should think about the age, gender, cultural background, location, interests, wealth, and more, of your intended audience. Then you should adapt the way you write to suit your audience.
Say you’re writing a book to explain chemistry to the everyday person. You’ll want to refrain from using all the complicated vocabulary you would use in the lab with your fellow chemists. Instead, you want to think about examples that would appear in everyday life. You’ll want to make sure you used pictures and graphs and colorful language.
If you’re writing an article in a college journal, you wouldn’t want to be too simplistic in your style or vocabulary. Think of your audience as you’re writing, and make sure your writing appeals to them.
The last thing you need to think of before you start writing is your format. How is it going to look on the page, and what techniques are you going to use?
Say you’ve decided your audience is a boardroom of a prosperous business. You may choose to format your presentation with catchy headings, diagrams, and facts. You’ll cut down on flowery language and use clear statements instead.
Or perhaps your audience is a roomful of children. You may choose to communicate with an exciting story, colorful pictures, and zany characters. You may still have a lesson you want to teach, but you’ll do so with repetition, creativity, and a compelling plot.
So let’s recap. The three most important questions you need to ask before writing anything are: why am I writing this, who am I writing this for, and how am I writing this? The answers to those questions will tell you the purpose, audience, and format.