There’s always a reason a writer decides to produce their work. We rarely think about it, but there’s always a motivating factor behind intent and goals they hope to achieve.
This “why” behind the author’s writing is what we call the author’s purpose, and it is the reason the author decided to write about something.
There are billions—maybe more—of reasons a writer decides to write something and when you understand the why behind the words, you can effectively and accurately evaluate their writing.
When you understand the why, you can apprehend what the author is trying to say, grasp the writer’s message, and the intent of a particular piece of literary work.
Without further ado, let me explain what the author’s purpose is and how you can identify it.
What is Author’s Purpose?
Just as I introduced the term, an author’s purpose is the author’s reason for or intent in writing.
In both fiction and non-fiction, the author selects the genre, writing format, and language to suit the author’s purpose.
The writing formats, genres, and vernacular are chosen to communicate a key message to the reader, to entertain the reader, to sway the reader’s opinion, et cetera.
The way an author writes about a topic fulfills their purpose; for example, if they intend to amuse, the writing will have a couple of jokes or anecdotal sections. The author’s purpose is also reflected in the way they title their works, write prefaces, and in their background.
In general, the purposes fall into three main categories, namely persuade, inform, and entertain. The three types of author’s purpose make the acronym PIE.
But, there are many reasons to write, the PIE just represents the three main classes of the author’s purpose.
In the next section, I’m going to elaborate on the various forms of the author’s purpose including the three broader categories that I have introduced.
How useful is the Author’s Purpose?
Understanding the author’s purpose helps readers understand and analyze writing. This analytical advantage helps the reader have an educated point of view. Titles or opening passages act as the text’s signposts, and we can assume what type of text we’re about to read.
If you can identify the author’s purpose, it becomes easier to recognize the proficiencies used to achieve that particular purpose. So, once you identify the author’s purpose, you can recognize the style, tone, word, and content used by the author to communicate their message.
You also get to explore other people’s attitudes, beliefs, or perspectives.
Why does the Author’s Purpose Matter for the Writer?
The intent and manner in which a body of text is written determine how one perceives the information one reads.
Perception is especially important if the author aims to inform, educate, or explain something to the reader. For instance, an author writing an informative piece should provide relevant or reliable information and clearly explain his concepts; otherwise, the reader will think they are trying to be deceptive.
The readers—particularly those reading informative or persuasive pieces—expect authors to support their arguments and demonstrate validity by using autonomous sources as references for their writing.
Likewise, readers expect to be thoroughly entertained by works of fiction.
Types of Author’s Purpose
Mostly, reasons for writing are condensed into 5 broad categories, and here they are:
1. to Persuade
Using this form of author’s purpose, the author tries to sway the reader and make them agree with their opinion, declaration, or stance. The goal is to convince the reader and make them act in a specific way.
To convince a reader to believe a concept or to take a specific course of action, the author backs the idea with facts, proof, and examples.
Authors also have to be creative with their persuasive writing. For instance, apart from form complementary facts and examples, the author has to borrow some forms of entertaining elements and amuse their readers. This makes their writing enjoyable and relatable to some extent, increasing the likelihood of persuading people to take the required course of action.
2. to Inform
When the author’s purpose is to inform or teach the reader, they use expository writing. The author attempts to teach objectively by showing or explaining facts.
When you look at informative writing and persuasive writing, you can identify a common theme: the use of facts. However, the two forms of the author’s purpose use these facts differently. Unlike persuasive writing, which uses facts to convince the reader, informative writing uses facts to educate the reader about a particular subject. With persuasive writing, it’s like there’s a catch: the call to action. But, informative writing only uses facts to educate the reader, not to convince them to take a specific course of action.
Informative writing only seeks to “expose” factual information about a topic for enlightenment.
3. to Entertain
Most fiction books are written to entertain the reader—and, yes, including horror. On the other hand, non-fiction works combine an entertaining element with informative writing.
To entertain, the author tries to keep things as interesting as possible by coming up with fascinating characters, exciting plots, thrilling storylines, and sharp dialogue.
Most narratives, poetry, and plays are written to entertain. Be that as it may, these works of fiction can also be persuasive or informative, but if we fuse values and ideas, changing the reader’s perspective becomes an easier task.
Nonetheless, the entertaining purpose has to dominate, or else, readers are going to lose interest quickly and the informative purpose will be defeated.
4. to Explain
When the author’s purpose is to explain, they write with the intent of telling the reader how to do something or giving details on how something works.
This type of writing is about teaching a method or a process and the text contains explanations that teach readers how a particular process works or the procedure required to do or create something.
5. to Describe
When describing is the author’s purpose, the author uses words to complement images in describing something. This type of writing attempts to give a more detailed description of something, a bit more detail than the “thousand words that a picture paints.”
The writer uses adjectives and images to make the reader feel as though it were their own sensory experience.
Main elements and examples of Author’s Purpose
A great way to identify the author’s purpose is to analyze the whole piece of literature. The first step would be to ask “What is the point of this piece?” One can also look at why it was written, who it was written for, and what effect they wanted it to have on readers.
Another method is to break down the text into different categories of purpose. For example, if someone wants their writing to persuade, they would use rhetorical devices (i.e., logical appeals).
Below are the types of publications dominated by each purpose and the things to look for when identifying the author’s purpose.
Persuasion is usually found in non-fiction, but countless other fiction books have also been used to persuade the reader.
Propaganda works are top of the list when it comes to persuasion in writing. But we also have other works including:
- Political speeches
- Infomercial scripts and news editorials meant to persuade the reader
- Fiction writing whose author has an agenda
How to Identify Persuasive Purpose
When trying to identify persuasion in writing, you should ask yourself if the author is attempting to convince the reader to take a specific course of action.
If the author is trying to persuade their readers, they employ several tactics and schemes including hyperboles, forceful phrases, repetition, supporting evidence, imagery, and photographs, and they attack opposing ideas or proponents.
Although some works of fiction are also informative, informative writing is commonly found on non-fiction shelves and dominates academic works.
Many types of academic textbooks are written with the primary purpose of informing the reader.
Informative writing is generally found in the following:
- Recipe books
How to identify Informative Purpose
Just like in persuasive writing, the writer will attempt to inform the reader by feeding them facts.
So, how can you spot a pure intent to inform?
The difference between the two is that an author whose purpose is persuasion is likely going to provide the reader with some facts in an attempt with the primary goal of convincing the reader of the worthwhileness or valuableness of a particular idea, item, situation, et cetera.
On the other hand, in informative writing, facts are used to inform and are not sugar-coated by the author’s opinion, like is the case when the author’s purpose is to persuade.
The entertaining purpose dominates fiction writing—there’s a huge emphasis placed on entertaining the reader in almost every fiction book.
In almost every type of fiction (be it science fiction, romance, or fantasy), the writer works on an exciting story that will leave his readers craving for more.
The only issue with this purpose is that the adjective ‘entertaining’ is subjective and what entertains one reader may not be so riveting for another.
For example, the type of ‘entertainment’ one gets from romance novels is different from the amusement another gets from reading science fiction.
Although entertainment in writing is mostly used in fiction, non-fiction works also use storytelling—now and then—to keep the reader engaged and drive home a specific point.
How to identify Entertaining Purpose
Identifying works meant to entertain is fairly easy: When an author intends to entertain or amuse the reader, they use a variety of schemes aimed at getting the readers engaged.
The author may insert some humor into their narrative or use dialogue to weave in some jokes.
The writer may also use cliffhangers at the end of a page or chapter to keep the reader interested in the story.
Authors also write to explain a topic or concept, especially in the non-fiction category. Fiction writers also write to explain things, usually not for the sole purpose of explaining that topic, but to help readers understand the plot, an event, a setting, or a character.
This type of purpose is dominant in How-to books, texts with recipes, DIY books, company or school books for orientation, and others.
How to identify Explaining Purpose
Texts with explaining purpose typically have a list of points (using a numbered or bulleted format), use infographics, diagrams, or illustrations.
Explaining purpose also contains a lot of verbs that try to convey directions, instructions, or guidelines.
Every author’s purpose or motive should be more than just entertaining the reader, it should be about more than just telling a good story.
A lot of authors tell stories to accomplish different objectives – some want to teach, provoke thought and debate, or show people that they’re not alone in their struggles. Others—like yours truly—write an article about the different types of Author’s purpose and hope it changes your writing style accordingly.
Authors must take their audience’s needs and interests into account, as well as their purposes for writing when writing something they intend to publish.
The author should find a way to make a piece that both generates interest as well as provides value to their reader.