Authors have a wide variety of reasons for communicating with readers. When reading a book or other piece of writing, it is incredibly important to understand the author’s purpose for writing down the words in front of you. When we talk about purpose, we are not necessarily talking about what occurs within the passage but instead the reason(s) why the author wrote it in the first place. This is an essential skill to understand and evaluate a piece of writing.
Depending on who you talk to, the different types of purposes for writing may range from 3 to 7 types. For students beginning to learn about purpose, a good starting point is PIE: to persuade, to inform, and to entertain. These are the three main purposes for writing something. Keep in mind that these three aren’t a definitive list, though. There are many additional reasons why an author may write something. In this post, we will talk about the main three and two additional purposes.
Persuasive writing is everywhere. If you have ever tried to convince your parents to buy you something or tried to get someone to take your side in an argument, you’re already familiar with persuasive dialogue. When an author writes something persuasive, they are trying to make an argument to the reader and convince them to side with a certain point of view or to take a particular action. Common examples of persuasive writing can be found in essays, advertisements, debates, speeches, and political writing. To identify this type of writing, pay attention to whether the author is using imagery and emotional appeals to make you think one way or another about a topic. The author will offer their opinion about the topic, and they may exaggerate certain details with hyperbole or emphasize more of one aspect than another. This type of writing may focus more on the positives or negatives of the subject at hand.
When an author wishes to inform you of something, they often wish to give you information about a real-world topic. The author’s goal is to educate the reader. Informative writing doesn’t always have to be non-fiction, but it often is. The author will give you many facts about a topic, often backed up by sources. Informational texts will usually stay clear of providing the author’s personal opinions about the subject, or, if given, the opinions will be clearly stated as a way to further inform the reader about something relevant to the topic. Common examples of informational texts are newspaper articles (not in the opinion section), almanac entries, reference books (like dictionaries), or textbooks.
When an author seeks to entertain the reader, they will try to keep the information in the passage as interesting as possible. In this type of writing, the author is telling a story, and it may include elements such as an action-packed plot, fantastical elements, sharp dialogue. These things are commonly found in fiction where the author may employ humor, building drama, or other details to grab the reader’s attention. You may find this kind of writing in plays and musicals, TV and movie scripts, comics, music, and more.
When an author seeks to explain something, they wish to inform the reader how to do something or how something works. If you have ever watched a how-to video or read a manual for a product or for putting something together, you have encountered this type of writing. Writing with this purpose is usually written in steps with clear details about how to do everything in the process. The intent of the writer is to have the reader take action to follow the steps described in the text. They may be fully or partially organized with outlines or using bulleted or numbered lists. Other examples include recipes and informative diagrams and illustrations.
Authors whose main purpose for writing something is to describe it will use vivid and clear words to help you paint a mental picture in your head of what is happening. They may use many, very specific words to accomplish this or may use unique comparisons to spark the readers’ imagination. Descriptive writing often appears in all the styles above. You may find descriptive writing in a story or a manual that tells you how to put something together. The main difference is that descriptive writing focuses on invoking the 5 senses, often using many adjectives, and focuses on one or more things to describe in detail so that the reader has a clear image of what is happening.
It takes time to learn reading comprehension skills so that you can properly evaluate what you are reading. Start now by practicing how to identify the purpose in different passages. You can also practice by taking the initiative to read more and read a variety of content. When you come across a passage, news, or a comic, think to yourself: why did the author choose to write it in this way? What are they hoping to achieve or want me to think about? With enough practice, you will master this skill in no time!
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Related Resources: Reading Comprehension Worksheets