Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.7. Explore techniques in terms of purpose and audience

ryanrori January 24, 2021

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Reaching the right conclusions about the purpose of a text and the type of audience that will read the text means consideration of the following:

  • Information Content:  Business documentation and text books or other documentation will contain information that is factual, possibly containing statistical data. The level of this information would therefore be specialised, written by an expert with applied knowledge such as a technician/engineer/scientist or executive. The language would contain the jargon of that particular field, e.g. legal or scientific

The articles from a popular magazine, for that matter would contain opinions, beliefs, inferences and persuasion. They would not be technically informative, but rather for the reader’s entertainment.

  • Tone:  The tone in each text will be determined by the writer’s objective; does he want to inform/instruct or does he want to entertain or persuade?

The tone in a magazine is less formal and less technical than that in a text book. Articles would comprise opinions, inferences, and some persuasion, in the form of advertisements.

  • Text Type:  To identify the text type, the reader must ask him/herself the following questions: 
  • What is the writer trying to tell me? 
  • Is the writer trying to persuade me? 
  • Is the writer informing me? 
  • Lastly, does the writer want to entertain me?

Textbooks and other business literature consist of information and instruction.

Magazines and novels consist of articles and stories that entertain, with opinions and inferences together with some narrative with suspense or romance.

To determine the purpose of a text and therefore the audience for whom it was written, we need to go through the text slowly and take note of any of the ideas and examples or details which may make the writer’s points clearer. Asking yourself questions as you read will help you understand exactly what the writer is saying.

The questions you need to ask yourself, also need to relate to:

  • Sentences:  Many people feel that only long sentences can convey an impression of dignity and seriousness. This is incorrect, as short sentences are equally effective in conveying certainty and control. There is no point in a writer linking unrelated ideas to produce long straggling sentences, as this will only make it harder for the reader to grasp the intended meaning.
  • Paragraphs:  The use of paragraphs not only helps the reader follow the writer’s train of thought but also shows that the writer has planned the text by ensuring that ideas are grouped under related topics and thus points follow on in a logical order. This technique helps the writer communicate with greater efficiency and precision.
  • Language:  Language is the primary means of communication between human beings, so any exercise in clear writing is an exercise in clear thought. People only speak the same language if they use the same words with the same meaning. Concrete terms such as table, book or dog are easy to use. Using abstract terms could add confusion as they have different meanings for different people.

An important feature of style is the writer’s choice of words. The number and kinds of words used in written or spoken communication are usually referred to as vocabulary. Choosing the right vocabulary for each situation is a complex process and is influenced by many factors. There are some basic principles that the writer should apply in every situation listed below:

  • When NOT to write the way we speak: When speaking, we all use expressions that are relaxed and informal, for instance, when pausing for breath, we might say, ‘you know what I mean?’ Such an expression may be useful when talking with friends, but in a business situation, is out of place.
  • Slang: Groups of people often develop an informal style of language which they use among themselves. Slang is often vigorous and forceful as well as inventive but it has significant drawbacks: it is usually only understood by a small group of people and it may not be particularly precise in meaning. For these reasons, it should not be used in more formal communication.
  • Emotive language can appeal so strongly to the emotions that the basic meaning is obscured. Emotional words prejudice the reader in advance and prevent him/her from reaching impartial conclusions. 
  • Persuasive language as seen in advertisements invites, tempts and in some cases shocks the reader. Advertising combines creative understanding with scientific knowledge of human behaviour and needs. Each advertisement is designed to grab the reader’s attention and sustain the reader’s interest. They also create in the reader a desire for the product advertised and encourage the reader to take action by purchasing the product or service.
  • At work, if you were writing a report for your manager or employer you would want him/her to react in a specific way, e.g. you may want to convince him/her to give all the employees an increase or spend more money on marketing or advertising, etc. If you were writing the same report for a magazine you would be using the same information however, you would be writing for a different audience and your purpose for writing may be different. 
  • Authors often use the power of suggestion in their texts and if used repeatedly the reader tends to believe the statement. Suggestion can therefore be a sinister and alarming barrier to clear thought.

We all have habits of thought. These are beliefs that we originally accepted without question and that we have continued to hold ever since. Often we call these our convictions, but someone else’s prejudices. Prejudices create obstacles in a person’s mind and limit their thinking process. Although they are often strongly held, these beliefs generally collapse when subjected to logical reasoning.

If an author uses imprecise words, faulty reasoning, padding or jargon, the reader cannot hope to get his/her message.