Audience and Purpose
Planning is key to producing quality writing. The first factors to consider while planning are your audience and your purpose.
When considering your audience, practice empathy: that is, put yourself in their shoes. What is their goal in reading your document? To evaluate your writing and analytical skills? To discover a new way of looking at some issue or a solution to some problem?
Your purpose will depend to some extent on your audience. What point do you want to prove?
What do you want the reader to learn? What information do you need to share to achieve your purpose?
When writing course papers, your audience and purpose may seem straightforward: you are writing exclusively for your instructor, with the goal of receiving a high grade. At the same time, these papers provide an excellent opportunity for you to practice writing with wider-ranging purposes for a larger audience. For this reason, your instructor will generally expect you to write as if for a larger audience made up of curious but skeptical readers who lack expertise in your field and need key terms and concepts explained.
The following links include questions to ask yourself when considering audience and purpose.
Audience and Purpose Links
- Handout (printable, 2 pages): "Audience," UNC Chapel Hill
- Video (0:32): "Knowing Your Audience and Purpose," Saylor Academy
- Video (3:00): "Purpose, Audience, and Tone," Language Centre, University of Groningen
- Handout (printable, 3 pages, good for all fields): "Tone in Business Writing," Purdue OWL
- Handout (printable, 2 pages): "Gender-Inclusive Language," UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center
- PowerPoint slides (download to your computer): "Professional Tone," Polytechnic Institute of NYU engineering course
- NPS worksheets (downloads to your computer): "Professional Tone" (answer key)
- Video (9:02): "Non-violent Communication, Part I," Marshall Rosenberg
- Video (11:50): "Tone: Levels of Formality in Writing," xtreme writing
- Video (19:02): "How Plain Language Makes Life Simpler," TEDTalk by Deborah Bosley
- Video (21:07): Plain Language training, DoD