Author’s Purpose: Three Reasons for Writing
There are three main reasons or purposes for writing. Any text that you encounter (whether the menu for your favorite restaurant or Shakespeare’s Hamlet) will serve one of the three following purposes:
1. Writing to Entertain
The primary purpose of texts that are written to entertain is to amuse readers. This does not mean that the text must be happy; the text could be a tragedy, but the main reason for writing the text is to amuse readers.
Examples of Texts that Are Written to Entertain
Stories, Poems, Dramas, Songs
Of course, this is not to say that stories, poems, or plays cannot be informative. These texts may even express values and ideas that will persuade readers to view the world differently. Nonetheless, if the text is not entertaining, readers are unlikely to find enlightenment or be moved by such a text. Therefore, the primary purpose of any text, poem, play is to entertain readers.
2. Writing to Inform
The primary purpose of texts that are written to inform is to enlighten the reader or provide the reader with information about a topic.
Examples of Texts That Are Written to Inform
Expository Essays or Articles, Instructions or Directions, Encyclopedias or Other Reference Texts
Again, the lines separating these distinction may blur. A text that is written to inform may entertain readers. For example, many readers find reading the newspaper to be very entertaining, but the primary purpose of the majority of the text is to provide information. From other reference texts, some readers may learn about ninjas, dinosaurs, or robots solely for enjoyment, but the author’s main purpose in writing such texts is to inform the reader.
3. Writing to Persuade
In a text that is written to persuade, the author’s primary purpose is to compel readers to take action, convince them of an idea through argument, or to reaffirm their existing beliefs.
Examples of Texts That Are Written to Persuade
Advertisements, Campaign Speeches, Persuasive Letters or Note
As with the others purposes for writing, there may be crossover with writing to persuade. For example, readers or viewers may find a television commercial to be extremely entertaining. Such a video may even go viral because so many people find it enjoyable. Nonetheless, the primary purpose of such a text is to persuade people to purchase a product or service.
Identifying the Author’s Purpose
Identifying the author’s purpose may be challenging to students who have not had much exposure to this skill, but after a little bit of practice, most students whom I have had the pleasure of teaching correctly identify the author’s purpose with consistency. Here are three questions that you can ask yourself to help you identify the author’s purpose:
1. Is the text a poem, play, or story?
If the text is a poem, play, or story, then it’s safe to say that the author’s main purpose is to entertain readers. If the text is not a poem, play, or story, ask yourself the next question.
2. Does the text provide a lot of facts and information?
If the text is primarily providing readers with facts and information, then we can conclude that the author’s main purpose in writing the text is to inform readers. If the text does not contain an abundance of what appears to be factual information, then go to the next question.
3. Is the text attempting to get the reader to do something?
If the text contains many arguments and claims, or a call where the reader is urged to take action, then the author’s main purpose is to persuade. If the text does not appear to be persuasive, reanalyze the text and repeat the process.