What is Author's Purpose?
- Shane Mac Donnchaidh
(It's also important to know that the STAAR test will never offer answer choices as simple as persuade, inform, or entertain.)
When we talk of the author’s purpose we are referring to the why behind their writing. What motivated the author to produce their work? What is their intent and what do they hope to achieve?
The author’s purpose is the reason they decided to write about something in the first place.
There are many reasons a writer puts pen to paper. It’s important that you possess the necessary tools for identifying these various reasons and intents.
Being able to identify the author’s purpose accurately is absolutely essential if you are to effectively evaluate a piece of writing.
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WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF AUTHOR’S PURPOSE?
Depending who you talk to, when the question is raised about how many types of author’s purpose there are,
you’ll generally be quoted a number ranging from around 3 to about 7.
A good starting point for students beginning to learn more about the different types of author’s purpose
is to begin with the main 3: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain.
These can easily be remembered with the PIE acronym.
However, these 3 represent only an introduction. In the interests of covering the topic a little more comprehensively,
we will define 5 different types of author’s purpose, look at some examples of each in use,
and give a few pointers helpful in identifying them.
This is a very common purpose of writing, particularly in nonfiction writing. When a text is written to persuade it will aim to convince the reader of the merits of a certain point of view. With this type of writing the author will attempt to persuade the reader to agree with this point of view and/or subsequently take a particular course of action.
This purpose can be found in all kinds of writing. It can even be in fiction writing when the author has an agenda, whether consciously or unconsciously. However, it is most commonly the motivation behind essays, advertisements, and political writing such as speeches and propaganda.
How to Identify:
To identify when the author’s purpose is to persuade, ask yourself if you feel the writer is trying to get you to believe something or take a specific action. You should learn to identify the various tactics and strategies used in persuasive writing such as repetition, various types of supporting evidence, hyperbole, attacking opposing viewpoints, forceful phrases, emotive imagery and photographs etc.
When an author’s purpose is to inform, they usually wish to enlighten their readership about a real-world topic. Often, they will do this by providing lots of facts. Informational texts are geared toward imparting information to the reader with the purpose of educating them on a given topic.
Many types of school books are written with the express purpose of informing the reader. Added to textbooks, we also have encyclopedias, recipe books, and newspapers.
How to Identify:
In the process of informing the reader, the author will make use of facts and this is one surefire way to spot the intent to inform.
However, when the author’s purpose is persuasion they will also be likely to provide the reader with some facts in an attempt to convince the reader of the merits of their particular case. The main difference between the two differing ways facts are employed is that, when the intention is to inform, facts are presented only to teach the reader. When the author’s purpose is to persuade, they will commonly mask their opinions amid the facts.
When an author’s chief purpose is to entertain, the reader they will endeavor to keep things as interesting as possible. Things happen in books that are written to entertain, whether in the form of an action packed plot, inventive characterizations, or sharp dialogue.
Not surprisingly, a great deal of fiction is written with the aim of entertaining, especially genre fiction. For example, we find entertaining examples in science fiction, romance, and fantasy - to name but a few.
How to Identify:
When writers are attempting to entertain or amuse the reader, they will use a variety of techniques to engage their attention. They may employ cliffhangers at the end of a chapter, for example. They may weave humor into their story, or even have characters tell jokes. In the case of a thriller, action-packed scene may follow on action-packed scene as the drama builds to a crescendo. Think of the melodrama of a soap opera here, rather than the subtle touch of an art house masterpiece.
When writers write to explain, they want to tell the reader how to do something or reveal to them how something works. This type of writing is about communicating a method or a process.
Writing with the purpose of explaining can be found in instructions,
step-by-step guides, procedural outlines, and recipes.
How to Identify:
Often you will find this type of writing organized into bulleted or numbered points. As it focuses on telling the reader how to do something, often lots of imperatives will be used within the writing. Diagrams and illustrations are often used to reinforce the text explanations too.
Often writers will use words to describe something in more detail than be conveyed in a photograph alone. After all, they say ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ and text can help get us beyond the one dimensional appearance of things.
We can find lots of descriptive writing in obvious places like short stories, novels and other forms of fiction where the writer wishes to paint a picture in the reader’s imagination. We can also find lots of writing with the purpose of description in nonfiction too - in product descriptions or descriptive essays, for example.
How to Identify:
In the case of fiction writing which describes, the reader will notice the writer using lots of sensory details in the text. Our senses are how we perceive the world and, to describe their imaginary world, writers will draw heavily on language that appeals to these senses. In both fiction and nonfiction, readers will notice the writer will rely heavily on adjectives in their writing.
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