There are several purposes authors use for writing, the most common ones being to persuade, inform, entertain, and explain.
Although texts usually have one primary purpose, there are texts that have more than one purpose.
The reason an author might have more than one purpose for writing would depend on the author and their text. An author, for example, might try to entertain readers with a piece of literature to achieve their goal of persuading them.
Let’s take a famous example to illustrate this point. The Alchemist by Paul Coelho is an international bestselling novel that shares the life of a young boy, his adventures (and misadventures), and his discoveries.
The way in which the story is told makes it very entertaining for the reader, but it also serves to accomplish another purpose – to persuade readers to pursue their dreams and passions by following their hearts’ desires.
This is just one example. Again, different texts will have different purposes or different combinations of purposes.
And the reason an author might have multiple purposes for their writing would depend on the text and the writer himself or herself.
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The most common purposes for writing
As we’ve mentioned, there are several different purposes writers use for their writing. Here’s an overview of some of the most common ones:
- To persuade – Writers very commonly use this purpose for their writing. Although it’s most commonly used in nonfiction writing, it can also be used in fiction works, like The Alchemist. When a text is meant to persuade, its goal is to convince its readers of the merits of a particular point of view. With this purpose for writing, the author attempts to persuade the reader to adopt and agree with their point of view and/or take a certain course of action. You’ll often find persuasion being the motivation behind advertisements, essays, and political writings, like propaganda.
- To inform – When an author wishes to inform, they usually want to educate or enlighten the reader about a particular topic. They’ll often do this by providing a hefty number of facts. Informational texts, whose main purpose usually is to inform, are focused on imparting information with the aim of educating them on a real-world topic. Excellent examples of texts with the purpose of informing would be textbooks, encyclopedias, newspapers (although they’re often used to persuade as well), and recipe books.
- To entertain – When an author’s main purpose is to entertain, their goal will be to keep the text as interesting–and entertaining–as they can. Whether the author uses sharp dialogue, creative characterizations, or an action-packed plot, the aim is to entertain the reader. It should come as no surprise that a good amount of fiction works, especially genre fiction novels, are written with the goal of entertaining. You’ll often find uses of entertainment in romance, science fiction, and fantasy novels, to name a few.
- To explain – When writers write for the purpose of explaining, they want to show the reader how something works or tell them how to do or accomplish something. You could say this kind of writing is about communicating a process or method. You’ll typically find this type of writing in instructions, procedural outlines, and step-by-step guides.
Other purposes for writing include expressing one’s own feelings, exploring a particular idea, solving a certain problem, and arguing for or against an idea.
Yet there are still many more purposes, and, as we’ve established, writers can combine purposes in a single text.
Why is having a purpose in writing important?
It’s important for writers to understand and identify purpose in writing because it helps them select and narrow their topic, identify their readers’ needs and concerns, and determine how they’ll put their piece of writing together.
For the reader, it’s important to be able to identify the author’s purpose because it helps them effectively evaluate the author’s writing, process it on a deeper level, and find it more meaningful.
Identifying an author’s purpose in a piece of writing is relatively easy. Here’s how you can identify the most commonly used purposes:
- Persuade – If the reader feels the author is attempting to make them take a specific course of action or get them to believe something, the author is trying to persuade them. Common strategies and tactics used in persuasive writing include the use of emotive imagery and photographs, forceful phrases, hyperbole, repetition, various types of evidence, and attacking opposing viewpoints.
- Inform – When trying to inform the reader, the author will use facts, which can be an easy and effective way to identify the author’s intent to inform. However, authors who are trying to persuade will also incorporate facts in their efforts to convince the reader about something. The primary difference: while writing that’s meant to inform the reader presents facts in order to teach the reader, writing that’s designed to persuade the reader often masks or hides the author’s opinions in the midst of the facts.
- Entertain – When an author’s main purpose is to entertain, they’ll incorporate various techniques meant to engage the reader. This might involve things like employing cliffhangers, weaving humor into the storyline, or injecting jokes into the dialogue. In a thriller, you might find an action-packed scene following another action-packed scene as the story builds up to a climax. Whatever technique the author uses, you can think of it as being more like a soap opera’s melodrama rather than a masterpiece’s subtle touch.
- Explain – You’ll often find writing that’s meant to explain having numbered or bulleted points. Since it focuses on letting the reader know how to do something, you’ll often see imperatives being used. Illustrations and diagrams, which are used to reinforce the explanations, are also common in this type of writing.
At first, trying to identify different kinds of writing, as well as their purposes, will require a great deal of conscious effort.
However, with practice, it will come more naturally and will help readers get more value from reading the author’s piece of writing.
Purposes for writing vs. purposes for speeches
Like written texts, speeches have purposes. And written texts and speeches share three commonly used purposes: to persuade, inform, or entertain.
But while explaining is a common motivation for authors in their writing, you won’t often find speeches whose primary purpose is to explain.
And while you’ll often find speeches that are created to celebrate or commemorate something or someone, you probably won’t be able to identify this type of purpose as much in written texts.
Nonetheless, the purposes for writing and speeches are generally similar.
What’s the difference between general and specific purposes?
“General purpose” and “specific purpose” are terms that are generally used for speeches, but they can also be applied to writing.
The general purpose of a speech will be to persuade, inform, or entertain, or whatever else the speaker wants to accomplish with their audience.
The general purpose statement is meant to lay out the speech’s broader goal, while the specific purpose statement is supposed to describe what the speech is intended to do.
In other words, the specific purpose statement gives the speech a clearer, more definitive direction than the general purpose statement.
Again, although general and specific purpose statements are mostly used in speeches, they can also be used in writing quite easily.