writing for purpose
The glow of the setting sun (its golden light nearly palpable in the sky) is mirrored by a splash of light in the far sea, but its main effect is in the foreground, the illumination of the commonplace activities of the plowman and the shepherd. The most vivid color in the painting is the reddish orange of the plowman’s shirt, juxtaposed as it is to the natural earth tones of horse and dirt surrounding it. Even the shepherd’s shadow has an ephemeral quality as the light hits him and his plow nearly horizontally. Whatever energy exists in the painting is moving toward the left side; the plowman, face downward, plods in that direction, as does his horse (whose backside also indecorously confronts the viewer). They move downward and to the left, toward the delicate tracery (like a Chinese screen) of the large tree on the left edge.
It’s important to know why you’re writing. If your purpose in writing is to please your instructor or to get a better grade, that may not be enough. Many instructors devise strategies to persuade their students to write for a larger community publishing students’ best work in a newsletter or online publication, asking students to send their papers to local newspapers, putting their best papers in a collection in the college library something that allows students to feel that more than one person, sitting alone at the kitchen table, is going to read this bit of writing. Knowing that there is more than one person to please, a public “out there,” is a motivation in itself to do well, to communicate clearly. It will help establish, also, that consistent sense of tone that is so important to a paper’s success.
“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).
In composition, the term purpose refers to a person’s reason for writing, such as to inform, entertain, explain, or persuade. Also known as the aim or writing purpose.
Your purpose for writing is simply what you are trying to accomplish. There are several different things you may be trying to accomplish in your writing. Choose the one that best suits the paper you’re working on now:
- Writing to Reflect means you are exploring personal ideas to make sense of your experiences. Examples include diaries, journals and autobiographical memoirs. You’re trying to communicate your emotions and reactions to others.
- Writing to Inform means you are communicating factual details about particular topics. Examples include newspaper articles, reference books, textbooks, instruction manuals and informative web sites such as government or non-profit sites. You’re providing definitions, explaining concepts or processes and helping readers understand ideas and see relationships.
- Writing to Persuade means you are trying to convince your readers to accept your position on a particular topic. Examples include research papers, editorials, advertisements and some business communications.
- Writing to Evaluate means you are assessing the validity, accuracy or quality of information to assess the relative merits of something. Examples include reports, critiques and book reviews.
Here are some questions students should consider when deciding on writing purpose:
Are you trying to sound more personal or authoritative?
Importantly, by the end of KS2 I’d hope to see children recognise things like the fact that newspaper articles could actually fall under any or all of the 4 headings: they’re not a distinct type in themselves, really.
They’re not exhaustive, nothing radical, but as ever, if they’re of use to people, then I’m happy to share:
4 Writing Purposes – guidance (click to download)